Global heating is exacerbating the harsh conditions associated with arid environments by elevating average air temperatures and increasing the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and drought.
Possible consequences for animals inhabiting arid regions include increased frequency of mass mortality events and disastrous reproductive failures.
However, heatwaves, especially in association with droughts, may also have insidious sublethal effects, including loss of body condition, reduced egg or clutch sizes in birds, reduced provisioning rates and compromised offspring quality, and the foregoing of breeding altogether.
“There is rapidly growing evidence for the negative effects of high temperatures on the behavior, physiology, breeding, and survival of various bird, mammal, and reptile species around the world,” said Dr. Nicholas Pattinson, a researcher at the University of Cape Town.
“For example, heat-related mass die-off events over the period of a few days are increasingly being recorded, which no doubt pose a threat to population persistence and ecosystem function.”
Lead Image: The southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas), adult female, in Mapungubwe National Park, South Africa. Image credit: Derek Keats / CC BY 2.0.
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