New in Town

Protected areas can act as “landing pads” for birds settling in a new region, scientists say. As species shift toward the poles to keep up with climate change, these wildlife reserves could offer havens for animals getting a fresh start.

The species that reserves were originally designed to protect may end up moving outside the reserve’s borders. But protected areas “could conceivably gain others if they safeguard habitats that are colonized by species spreading beyond their former geographical ranges,” the study authors write in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

For example, six new wetland bird species have settled down in the UK in the last half-century, including whooper swans, little egrets, and Mediterranean gulls. Each species was first found breeding in a protected area, the team reports.

Over time, the birds ventured outside the refuges and began breeding elsewhere. The study suggests that protected areas not only give new birds a place to start but offer “‘establishment centres’, from which populations subsequently spread,” the team writes. Roberta Kwok | 10 April 2013

Source: Hiley, J.R. et al. 2013. Protected Areas act as establishment centres for species colonizing the UK. Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2310.

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