Publications by authors named "Wieland Heim"

10 Publications

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Non-Invasively Collected Fecal Samples as Indicator of Multiple Pesticide Exposure in Wild Birds.

Environ Toxicol Chem 2021 Nov 24. Epub 2021 Nov 24.

University of Münster, Institute of Landscape Ecology, Münster, Germany.

Pesticide use poses a potential hazard to wild birds that use agricultural farmland as their foraging habitat. While most current pesticide studies have found residues in liver samples and single active substances, non-invasive sampling methods and data on a wide variety of agrochemicals are needed to determine pesticide exposure of living wild birds for post-registration monitoring. We collected feces during autumn migration of Eurasian Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), a species that commonly forages in winter cereal crops. Birds were kept in paper bags until we measured their body condition, individually marked and released them back into the wild. We analysed the feces dropped in paper bags for the presence of 80 pesticides including rodenticides and degradation products. Nine active substances from fungicides and herbicides commonly used in grain and maize fields were detected individually, or in combination, in 25% of the samples. We found no significant differences in body condition between exposed and unexposed birds, but Eurasian Skylarks without pesticide residues tended to have a better body condition than birds with pesticide residues. Pesticide determination in non-invasively collected fecal samples enables a refined risk analysis, which takes pesticides used in the habitats of birds into account. It allows the search for the sources of pesticide contamination, but also enables research into potential deleterious effects on the fitness of farmland birds. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/etc.5260DOI Listing
November 2021

Fire disturbance promotes biodiversity of plants, lichens and birds in the Siberian subarctic tundra.

Glob Chang Biol 2021 Oct 27. Epub 2021 Oct 27.

Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.

Fire shapes the world's terrestrial ecosystems and has been influencing biodiversity patterns for millennia. Anthropogenic drivers alter fire regimes. Wildfires can amplify changes in the structure, biodiversity and functioning of the fast-warming tundra ecosystem. However, there is little evidence available, how these fires affect species diversity and community composition of tundra ecosystems over the long term. We studied long-term fire effects on community composition and diversity at different trophic levels of the food web in the subarctic tundra of Western Siberia. In a space-for-time approach we compared three large fire scars (>44, 28 and 12 years old) to unburnt controls. We found that diversity (measured as species richness, Shannon index and evenness) of vascular and non-vascular plants and birds was strongly affected by fire, with the greatest species richness of plants and birds for the intermediate-age fire scar (28 years). Species composition of plants and birds still differed from that of the control >44 years after fire. Increased deciduous shrub cover was related to species richness of all plants in a hump-shaped manner. The proportion of southern (taiga) bird species was highest in the oldest fire scar, which had the highest shrub cover. We conclude that tundra fires have long-term legacies with regard to species diversity and community composition. They may also increase landscape-scale species richness and facilitate range expansions of more southerly distributed species to the subarctic tundra ecosystem.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15963DOI Listing
October 2021

Range-wide breeding habitat use of the critically endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting after population collapse.

Ecol Evol 2021 Jul 18;11(13):8410-8419. Epub 2021 May 18.

Institute of Landscape Ecology University of Münster Münster Germany.

The population of the Yellow-breasted Bunting , a formerly widely distributed and abundant songbird of northern Eurasia, suffered a catastrophic decline and a strong range contraction between 1980 and 2013. There is evidence that the decline was driven by illegal trapping during migration, but potential contributions of other factors to the decline, such as land-use change, have not yet been evaluated. Before the effects of land-use change can be evaluated, a basic understanding of the ecological requirements of the species is needed. We therefore compared habitat use in ten remaining breeding regions across the range, from European Russia to Japan and the Russian Far East. We also assessed large-scale variation in habitat parameters across the breeding range. We found large variation in habitat use, within and between populations. Differences were related to the cover and height of trees and shrubs at Yellow-breasted Bunting territories. In many regions, Yellow-breasted Buntings occupied early successional stages, including anthropogenic habitats characterized by mowing, grazing, or fire regimes. We found that the probability of presence can be best predicted with the cover of shrubs, herbs, and grasses. Highest probabilities were found at shrub cover values of 40%-70%. Differences in habitat use along a longitudinal gradient were small, but we found strong differences across latitudes, possibly related to habitat availability. We conclude that the remaining Yellow-breasted Bunting populations are not limited to specific habitat types. Our results provide important baseline information to model the range-wide distribution of this critically endangered species and to guide targeted conservation measures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7668DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8258230PMC
July 2021

Complex postbreeding molt strategies in a songbird migrating along the East Asian Flyway, the Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler .

Ecol Evol 2021 Jan 21;11(1):11-21. Epub 2020 Dec 21.

Institute of Landscape Ecology Münster University Münster Germany.

Molt strategies have received relatively little attention in current ornithology, and knowledge concerning the evolution, variability and extent of molt is sparse in many bird species. This is especially true for East Asian species where assumptions on molt patterns are based on incomplete information. We provide evidence indicating a complex postbreeding molt strategy and variable molt extent among the Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler , based on data from six ringing sites situated along its flyway from the breeding grounds to the wintering areas. Detailed study revealed for the first time that in most individuals wing feather molt proceeds from the center both toward the body and the wing-tip, a molt pattern known as divergent molt (which is rare among Palearctic passerines). In the Russian Far East, where both breeding birds and passage migrants occur, a third of the adult birds were molting in late summer. In Central Siberia, at the northwestern limit of its distribution, adult individuals commenced their primary molt partly divergently and partly with unknown sequence. During migration in Mongolia, only descendantly (i.e., from the body toward the wing-tip) molting birds were observed, while further south in Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand the proportion of potential eccentric and divergent feather renewal was not identifiable since the renewed feathers were already fully grown as expected. We found an increase in the mean number of molted primaries during the progress of the autumn migration. Moderate body mass levels and low-fat and muscle scores were observed in molting adult birds, without any remarkable increase in the later season. According to optimality models, we suggest that an extremely short season of high food abundance in tall grass habitats and a largely overland route allow autumn migration with low fuel loads combined with molt migration in at least a part of the population. This study highlights the importance of further studying molt strategy as well as stopover behavior decisions and the trade-offs among migratory birds that are now facing a panoply of anthropogenic threats along their flyways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7098DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7790613PMC
January 2021

Litter removal through fire - A key process for wetland vegetation and ecosystem dynamics.

Sci Total Environ 2021 Feb 2;755(Pt 2):142659. Epub 2020 Oct 2.

Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, Heisenbergstraße 2, 48149 Münster, Germany.

Fire is a major driver of global vegetation patterns. It strongly reduces litter and thus alters physical and chemical properties of the environment. Studies investigating the interplay of fire and litter are scarce, and wetland ecosystems are strongly under-represented in research focusing on litter dynamics. We present data on short-term effects of fires in floodplain wetlands along the Amur River in the Russian Far East, an area with a high fire recurrence rate. We analysed vegetation and plant growth patterns as well as soil temperature and nutrient concentrations on recently burnt and unburnt control plots. Directly after fire, litter was reduced by more than 50% on burnt plots. This effect was no longer visible 15 months after fire, probably due to the high productivity of the floodplain ecosystem. Litter was found to act as a key determinant in the net of direct and indirect fire effects, by influencing early plant growth patterns of herbs and grasses. Furthermore, litter removal through fire significantly increased plant species diversity and soil temperature. Contrary, N and P concentrations in living plant biomass of grasses and herbs decreased with decreasing litter cover. Combustion during burning seems to be responsible for the negative direct fire impacts on nutrient concentrations, which were found for N and Mg. Litter removal through fire can strongly affect diversity patterns, dominance structures, and nutrient cycling in wetlands. With increasing fire frequency in the course of global change, significant structural and compositional changes in herbaceous wetland vegetation must be anticipated and the studied ecosystem may shift to reinforced N-limitation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142659DOI Listing
February 2021

Discovery and population genomics of structural variation in a songbird genus.

Nat Commun 2020 07 7;11(1):3403. Epub 2020 Jul 7.

Department of Evolutionary Biology and Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University, 752 36, Uppsala, Sweden.

Structural variation (SV) constitutes an important type of genetic mutations providing the raw material for evolution. Here, we uncover the genome-wide spectrum of intra- and interspecific SV segregating in natural populations of seven songbird species in the genus Corvus. Combining short-read (N = 127) and long-read re-sequencing (N = 31), as well as optical mapping (N = 16), we apply both assembly- and read mapping approaches to detect SV and characterize a total of 220,452 insertions, deletions and inversions. We exploit sampling across wide phylogenetic timescales to validate SV genotypes and assess the contribution of SV to evolutionary processes in an avian model of incipient speciation. We reveal an evolutionary young (~530,000 years) cis-acting 2.25-kb LTR retrotransposon insertion reducing expression of the NDP gene with consequences for premating isolation. Our results attest to the wealth and evolutionary significance of SV segregating in natural populations and highlight the need for reliable SV genotyping.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17195-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7341801PMC
July 2020

Breeding habitat and nest-site selection by an obligatory "nest-cleptoparasite", the Amur Falcon .

Ecol Evol 2019 Dec 2;9(24):14430-14441. Epub 2019 Dec 2.

Institute of Landscape Ecology University of Muenster Muenster Germany.

The selection of a nest site is crucial for successful reproduction of birds. Animals which re-use or occupy nest sites constructed by other species often have limited choice. Little is known about the criteria of nest-stealing species to choose suitable nesting sites and habitats. Here, we analyze breeding-site selection of an obligatory "nest-cleptoparasite", the Amur Falcon . We collected data on nest sites at Muraviovka Park in the Russian Far East, where the species breeds exclusively in nests of the Eurasian Magpie . We sampled 117 Eurasian Magpie nests, 38 of which were occupied by Amur Falcons. Nest-specific variables were assessed, and a recently developed habitat classification map was used to derive landscape metrics. We found that Amur Falcons chose a wide range of nesting sites, but significantly preferred nests with a domed roof. Breeding pairs of Eurasian Hobby and Eurasian Magpie were often found to breed near the nest in about the same distance as neighboring Amur Falcon pairs. Additionally, the occurrence of the species was positively associated with bare soil cover, forest cover, and shrub patches within their home range and negatively with the distance to wetlands. Areas of wetlands and fallow land might be used for foraging since Amur Falcons mostly depend on an insect diet. Additionally, we found that rarely burned habitats were preferred. Overall, the effect of landscape variables on the choice of actual nest sites appeared to be rather small. We used different classification methods to predict the probability of occurrence, of which the method showed the highest accuracy. The areas determined as suitable habitat showed a high concordance with the actual nest locations. We conclude that Amur Falcons prefer to occupy newly built (domed) nests to ensure high nest quality, as well as nests surrounded by available feeding habitats.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5878DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6953660PMC
December 2019

Migration phenology determines niche use of East Asian buntings (Emberizidae) during stopover.

Curr Zool 2018 Dec 6;64(6):681-692. Epub 2018 Feb 6.

Institute of Avian Research "Vogelwarte Helgoland", An der Vogelwarte 21, Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

Stopover niche utilization of birds during migration has not gained much attention so far, since the majority of the studies focuses on breeding or wintering areas. However, stopover sites are crucial for migratory birds. They are often used by a multitude of species, which could lead to increased competition. In this work, we investigated niche use of 8 migratory and closely related bunting species at a stopover site in Far East Russia, situated on the poorly studied East Asian flyway. We used bird ringing data to evaluate morphological similarity as well as niche overlap on the trophic, spatial, and temporal dimension. Bill morphology was used as a proxy for their trophic niche. We were able to prove that a majority of the species occupies well-defined stopover niches on at least one of the dimensions. Niche breadth and niche overlap differ between spring and autumn season with higher overlap found during spring. Morphological differences are mostly related to overall size and wing pointedness. The temporal dimension is most important for segregation among the studied species. Furthermore, all species seem to exhibit a rather strict and consistent phenological pattern. Their occurrence at the study site is highly correlated with their geographic origin and the length of their migration route. We assume that buntings are able to use available resources opportunistically during stopover, while trying to follow a precise schedule in order to avoid competition and to ensure individual fitness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cz/zoy016DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6280105PMC
December 2018

Improved sampling at the subspecies level solves a taxonomic dilemma - A case study of two enigmatic Chinese tit species (Aves, Passeriformes, Paridae, Poecile).

Mol Phylogenet Evol 2017 02 11;107:538-550. Epub 2016 Dec 11.

Senckenberg Naturhistorische Sammlungen, Königsbrücker Landstraβe 159, D-01109 Dresden, Germany. Electronic address:

A recent full species-level phylogeny of tits, titmice and chickadees (Paridae) has placed the Chinese endemic black-bibbed tit (Poecile hypermelaenus) as the sister to the Palearctic willow tit (P. montanus). Because this sister-group relationship is in striking disagreement with the traditional affiliation of P. hypermelaenus close to the marsh tit (P. palustris) we tested this phylogenetic hypothesis in a multi-locus analysis with an extended taxon sampling including sixteen subspecies of willow tits and marsh tits. As a taxonomic reference we included type specimens in our analysis. The molecular genetic study was complemented with an analysis of biometric data obtained from museum specimens. Our phylogenetic reconstructions, including a comparison of all GenBank data available for our target species, clearly show that the genetic lineage previously identified as P. hypermelaenus actually refers to P. weigoldicus because sequences were identical to that of a syntype of this taxon. The close relationship of P. weigoldicus and P. montanus - despite large genetic distances between the two taxa - is in accordance with current taxonomy and systematics. In disagreement with the previous phylogenetic hypothesis but in accordance with most taxonomic authorities, all our P. hypermelaenus specimens fell in the sister clade of all western and eastern Palearctic P. palustris. Though shared haplotypes among the Chinese populations of the two latter species might indicate mitochondrial introgression in this part of the breeding range, further research is needed here due to the limitations of our own sampling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2016.12.014DOI Listing
February 2017
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