Summaries of important papers that cover animal navigation

Bauer, S., Shamoun-Baranes, J., Nilsson, C., Farnsworth, A., Kelly, J. F., Reynolds, D. R., Dokter, A. M., Krauel, J. F., Petterson, L. B., Horton, K. G. & Chapman, J. W. 2019 The grand challenges of migration ecology that radar aeroecology can help answer. Ecography42, 861-875. doi: 10.1111/ecog.04083. Bauer9 2019 

Many migratory species have experienced substantial declines that resulted from rapid and massive expansions of human structures and activities, habitat alterations and climate change. Migrants are also recognized as an integral component of biodiversity and provide a multitude of services and disservices that are relevant to human agriculture, economy and health. The plethora of recently published studies reflects the need for better fundamental knowledge on migrations and for better management of their ecological and human-relevant effects. Yet, where are we in providing answers to fundamental questions and societal challenges? Engaging a broad network of researchers worldwide, we used a horizon-scan approach to identify the most important challenges which need to be overcome in order to gain a fuller understanding of migration ecology, and which could be addressed using radar aeroecological and macroecological approaches. The top challenges include both long-standing and novel topics, ranging from fundamental information on migration routes and phenology, orientation and navigation strategies, and the multitude of effects migrants may have on resident communities, to societal challenges, such as protecting or preventing migrant services and disservices, and the conservation of migrants in the face of environmental changes. We outline these challenges, identify the urgency of addressing them and the primary stakeholders – researchers, policy makers and practitioners, or funders of research.

Nilsson, C., Dokter, A. M., Verlinden, L., Shamoun-Baranes, J., Schmid, B., Desmet, P., Bauer, S., Chapman, J., Alves, J. A., Stepanian, P. M., Sapir, N., Wainwright, C., Boos, M., Górska, A., Menz, M. H. M., Rodrigues, P., Leijnse, H., Zehtindjiev, P., Brabant, R., Haase, G., Weisshaupt, N., Ciach, M. & Liechti, F. 2019 Revealing patterns of nocturnal migration using the European weather radar network. Ecography42, 876-886. doi: 10.1111/ecog.04003. Nilsson10 2019 

Nocturnal avian migration flyways remain an elusive concept, as we have largely lacked methods to map their full extent. We used the network of European weather radars to investigate nocturnal bird movements at the scale of the European flyway. We mapped the main migration directions and showed the intensity of movement across part of Europe by extracting biological information from 70 weather radar stations from northern Scandinavia to Portugal, during the autumn migration season of 2016. On average, over the 20 nights and all sites, 389 birds passed per 1 km transect per hour. The night with highest migration intensity showed an average of 1621 birds km–1 h–1 passing the radar stations, but there was considerable geographical and temporal variation in migration intensity. The highest intensity of migration was seen in central France. The overall migration directions showed strong southwest components. Migration dynamics were strongly related to synoptic wind conditions. A wind-related mass migration event occurred immediately after a change in wind conditions, but quickly diminished even when supporting winds continued to prevail. This first continental-scale study using the European network of weather radars demonstrates the wealth of information available and its potential for investigating large-scale bird movements, with consequences for ecosystem function, nutrient transfer, human and livestock health, and civil and military aviation.

Hüppop, O., Ciach, M., Diehl, R., Reynolds, D. R., Stepanian, P. M. & Menz, M. H. M. 2019 Perspectives and challenges for the use of radar in biological conservation. Ecography42, 912-930. doi: 10.1111/ecog.04063. 

Hüppop1 2019 Radar is at the forefront for the study of broad-scale aerial movements of birds, bats and insects and related issues in biological conservation.

Radar techniques are especially useful for investigating species which fly at high altitudes, in darkness, or which are too small for applying electronic tags. Here, we present an overview of radar applications in biological conservation and highlight its future possibilities. Depending on the type of radar, information can be gathered on local- to continental-scale movements of airborne organisms and their behaviour. Such data can quantify flyway usage, biomass and nutrient transport (bioflow), population sizes, dynamics and distributions, times and dimensions of movements, areas and times of mass emergence and swarming, habitat use and activity ranges. Radar also captures behavioural responses to anthropogenic disturbances, artificial light and man-made structures. Weather surveillance and other long-range radar networks allow spatially broad overviews of important stopover areas, songbird mass roosts and emergences from bat caves. Mobile radars, including repurposed marine radars and commercially dedicated ‘bird radars’, offer the ability to track and monitor the local movements of individuals or groups of flying animals. Harmonic radar techniques have been used for tracking short-range movements of insects and other small animals of conservation interest. However, a major challenge in aeroecology is determining the taxonomic identity of the targets, which often requires ancillary data obtained from other methods. Radar data have become a global source of information on ecosystem structure, composition, services and function and will play an increasing role in the monitoring and conservation of flying animals and threatened habitats worldwide.

Ferguson, A., Reed, T. E., Cross, T. F., Mcginnity, P. & Prodöhl, P. A. 2019 Anadromy, potamodromy and residency in brown trout Salmo trutta: the role of genes and the environment. Journal of Fish Biology0. doi: 10.1111/jfb.14005. Ferguson6 2019 

Brown trout Salmo trutta is endemic to Europe, western Asia, north-western Africa and is a prominent member of freshwater and coastal marine fish faunas. The species shows two resident (river-resident, lake-resident) and three main facultative migratory life histories (downstream–upstream within a river system, fluvial–adfluvial potamodromous; to and from a lake, lacustrine–adfluvial (inlet)–allucustrine (outlet) potamodromous; to and from the sea, anadromous). River-residency v. migration is a balance between enhanced feeding and thus growth advantages of migration to a particular habitat v. the costs of potentially greater mortality and energy expenditure. Fluvial–adfluvial migration usually has less feeding improvement, but less mortality risk, than lacustrine–adfluvial–allacustrine and anadromous, but the latter vary among catchments as to which is favoured. Indirect evidence suggests that around 50% of the variability in S. trutta migration v. residency, among individuals within a population, is due to genetic variance. This dichotomous decision can best be explained by the threshold-trait model of quantitative genetics. Thus, an individual’s physiological condition (e.g., energy status) as regulated by environmental factors, genes and non-genetic parental effects, acts as the cue. The magnitude of this cue relative to a genetically predetermined individual threshold, governs whether it will migrate or sexually mature as a river-resident. This decision threshold occurs early in life and, if the choice is to migrate, a second threshold probably follows determining the age and timing of migration. Migration destination (mainstem river, lake, or sea) also appears to be genetically programmed. Decisions to migrate and ultimate destination result in a number of subsequent consequential changes such as parr–smolt transformation, sexual maturity and return migration. Strong associations with one or a few genes have been found for most aspects of the migratory syndrome and indirect evidence supports genetic involvement in all parts. Thus, migratory and resident life histories potentially evolve as a result of natural and anthropogenic environmental changes, which alter relative survival and reproduction. Knowledge of genetic determinants of the various components of migration in S. trutta lags substantially behind that ofOncorhynchus mykiss and other salmonids. Identification of genetic markers linked to migration components and especially to the migration–residency decision, is a prerequisite for facilitating detailed empirical studies. In order to predict effectively, through modelling, the effects of environmental changes, quantification of the relative fitness of different migratory traits and of their heritabilities, across a range of environmental conditions, is also urgently required in the face of the increasing pace of such changes. 

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