Vulnerability of megapodes (Megapodiidae, Aves) to climate change and related threats
Cambridge University Press
School of Science
Aspects of species life histories may increase their susceptibility to climate change. Owing to their exclusive reliance on environmental sources of heat for incubation, megapodes may be especially vulnerable. We employed a trait-based vulnerability assessment to weigh their exposure to projected climate variables of increasing temperatures, fluctuating rainfall and sea level rise and their biological sensitivity and capacity to adapt. While all 21 species were predicted to experience at least a 2 °C increase in mean annual temperature, 12 to experience a moderate or greater fluctuation in rainfall and 16 to experience rising seas, the most vulnerable megapodes are intrinsically rare and range restricted. Species that employ microbial decomposition for incubation may have an adaptive advantage over those that do not and may be more resilient to climate change. The moderate microclimate necessary for mound incubation, however, may in some areas be threatened by anthropogenic habitat loss exacerbated by warmer and seasonally drier conditions. As with many avian species, little is known about the capacity of megapodes to adapt to a changing climate. We therefore recommend that future research efforts investigate megapode fecundity, gene flow and genetic connectivity at the population level to better determine their adaptive capacity.