Migration is a widespread phenomenon across the animal kingdom as a response to seasonality in environmental conditions. Partially migratory populations are populations that consist of both migratory and residential individuals. Such populations are very common, yet their stability has long been debated. The inheritance of migratory activity is currently best described by the threshold model of quantitative genetics. The inclusion of such a genetic threshold model for migratory behavior leads to a stable zone in time and space of partially migratory populations under a wide range of demographic parameter values, when assuming stable environmental conditions and unlimited genetic diversity. Migratory species are expected to be particularly sensitive to global warming, as arrival at the breeding grounds might be increasingly mistimed as a result of the uncoupling of long-used cues and actual environmental conditions, with decreasing reproduction as a consequence. Here, we investigate the consequences for migratory behavior and the stability of partially migratory populations under five climate change scenarios and the assumption of a genetic threshold value for migratory behavior in an individual-based model. The results show a spatially and temporally stable zone of partially migratory populations after different lengths of time in all scenarios. In the scenarios in which the species expands its range from a particular set of starting populations, the genetic diversity and location at initialization determine the species’ colonization speed across the zone of partial migration and therefore across the entire landscape. Abruptly changing environmental conditions after model initialization never caused a qualitative change in phenotype distributions, or complete extinction. This suggests that climate change-induced shifts in species’ ranges as well as changes in survival probabilities and reproductive success can be met with flexibility in migratory behavior at the species level, which will reduce the risk of extinction.
Cobben, M. M. P., & Van Noordwijk, A. J. (2017). Consequences of the genetic treshold model for observing partial migration under climate change scenarios. Ecology and Evolution, 7(20), 8379-8387. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3357