Testing for effects of climate change on competitive relationships and coexistence between two bird species

Nils Chr Stenseth, Joël M. Durant, Mike S. Fowler, Erik Matthysen, Frank Adriaensen, Niclas Jonzén, Kung Sik Chan, Hai Liu, Jenny De Laet, Ben C. Sheldon, Marcel E. Visser, André A. Dhondt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


Climate change is expected to have profound ecological effects, yet shifts in competitive abilities among species are rarely studied in this context. Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and great tits (Parus major) compete for food and roosting sites, yet coexist across much of their range. Climate change might thus change the competitive relationships and coexistence between these two species. Analysing four of the highest-quality, long-term datasets available on these species across Europe, we extend the textbook example of coexistence between competing species to include the dynamic effects of long-term climate variation. Using threshold time-series statistical modelling, we demonstrate that long-term climate variation affects species demography through different influences on density-dependent and density-independent processes. The competitive interaction between blue tits and great tits has shifted in one of the studied sites, creating conditions that alter the relative equilibrium densities between the two species, potentially disrupting longterm coexistence. Our analyses show that long-term climate change can, but does not always, generate local differences in the equilibrium conditions of spatially structured species assemblages. We demonstrate how long-term data can be used to better understand whether (and how), for instance, climate change might change the relationships between coexisting species. However, the studied populations are rather robust against competitive exclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20141958
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1807
StatePublished - May 22 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate variation
  • Coexistence and competitive exclusion
  • Intra- and interspecific competition
  • Statistical modelling
  • Threshold modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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    Stenseth, N. C., Durant, J. M., Fowler, M. S., Matthysen, E., Adriaensen, F., Jonzén, N., Chan, K. S., Liu, H., De Laet, J., Sheldon, B. C., Visser, M. E., & Dhondt, A. A. (2015). Testing for effects of climate change on competitive relationships and coexistence between two bird species. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1807), [20141958]. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.1958