13th EOU Congress 2022

Giessen, Germany
March, 14 - 18, 2022

List of symposia

photo: Christian Höfs

Understanding Life-history Trade-offs and Variation in Senescence Patterns: Established and Candidate Mechanisms

Conveners: Christina Bauch, Blanca Jimeno, Elisa Badas

Senescence, a gradual age-specific decline in contribution to fitness, has been observed across taxa, including birds. However, the onset and rates of senescence differ among species, populations and individuals. Variation in senescence patterns can arise due to different life-history strategies that result in differing resource allocation trade-offs. To explain and quantify such differences, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms that underlie senescence patterns. Examples of such mechanisms are oxidative stress or telomere dynamics, which have been successfully related to key life-history traits such as reproductive success and lifespan. The study of other mechanisms within this framework (i.e. mitochondrial function or epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation and epigenetic clock) is in its infant stage, but on the rise as a promising avenue for senescence research. The purpose of this symposium is to give an overview of the current research on the established and candidate mechanisms underlying variation in senescence patterns. The symposium will provide a multidisciplinary and integrative perspective on the present and future of the senescence research, by bringing together researchers representing a wide array of methodologies and approaches.

Dealing with Tough Seasons: A Comparison of Annual Cycle Strategies in African Residents & Afro-Palearctic Migrants

Conveners: Crinan Jarrett, Chima Nwaogu, Barbara Helm

Ornithologists commonly view tropical habitats as stable environments which allow year-round breeding and moult of resident birds, and survival of overwintering higher-latitude migrants. This view is an oversimplification of seasonality in Africa because conditions fluctuate often quite dramatically, for example in terms of precipitation, temperature, and resources.  Birds residing in the Afrotropics, whether year-round or temporarily, must endure these conditions and fit their annual cycle events to them, either by evolving annual schedules, or by flexible adjustments in time and space. In this symposium, we wish to understand how environmental seasonal fluctuations in Africa affect the scheduling of annual cycle stages in residents and migrant visitors. We will bring together African and European researchers to review our current understanding of seasonality in Africa, and to discuss the effects of seasonal fluctuations on timing of breeding, movements, and over-wintering behaviour in resident and migrant birds.

Evolutionary Ecology of Cognition in the Wild

Conveners: Eva Serrano Davies, John Quinn

Cognition refers to the processes by which animals collect, retain and use information from their environment. These processes play a major role in driving behaviour, and thus understanding the causes and consequences of variation in cognitive performance is a major research objective in biology. The field of animal cognition has expanded rapidly over the last 10 years, and our understanding of the role of ecological and social factors in driving the evolution of brains and cognitive abilities has been greatly enhanced by comparative studies encompassing a wide range of taxa. However, progress at the level of the individual is only beginning to emerge within non-human species. A handful of recent studies have begun to explore the relationship between variation in individual cognitive performance and fitness under natural conditions. Moreover, bird model species are playing a central role in formulating and testing hypotheses about the causes and consequences of variation in cognitive performance. In this symposium, we aim to bring together ornithologists interested in taking an individual-based approach on the role of cognitive variation in ecological and social factors. We aim to highlight the potential that studies on birds have to advance the field of animal cognition with a program that will present exciting new finds, covering a broad range of approaches and topics.

Coping Strategies of Mountain Birds to Environmental Variability

Conveners: Susanne Jähnig, Arnaud Barras

Globally, high-elevation ecosystems are exposed to some of the most acute environmental impacts in response to a rapidly changing climate. Shifts in climatic conditions are characterized by linear increases in ambient temperature, but also by multidirectional changes in precipitation regimes punctuated by more extreme weather events such as storms, droughts, and severe temperature challenges. Inter-annual variability and stochasticity of weather events form an integral component of temperate mountain ecosystems, with mountain birds having evolved specific adaptations to cope with these rapid and unpredictable environmental fluctuations. Yet, we know very little about these adaptive strategies, such as flexibility in life-history or behavioural traits, and whether they are sufficient to cope with increasingly extreme climate events. Mountain birds are also predominantly migratory, and therefore variable conditions on the migration route and non-breeding grounds may impose additional stressors that reduce the ability for individuals and populations to cope with changing climate conditions. A better understanding of mountain bird ecology across the annual cycle is thus crucial to a sound forecasting of their response to future environmental change, and hence to the implementation of effective conservation management. This symposium will present state-of-the-art research on the ecology of birds in temperate mountain ecosystems, with a special focus on how various species respond to increased environmental variability.

Metabolic Adaptions under the Surface

Conveners: Andreas Nord, Suvi Ruuskanen

Metabolism refers to the molecular processes that sustain all life: the conversion of food to energy to run cellular processes, the conversion of food/fuel to building blocks for proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and some carbohydrates, and the elimination of waste products including harmful substances. Often metabolism is measured at the whole-animal level as metabolic rate. Currently, we have quite a good understanding of the environmental and intrinsic determinants of whole-animal metabolic rate, and how it links to animal performance. However, to understand animal performance under challenging conditions, and potential evolutionary changes, we need to understand the molecular process in more detail. This symposium focuses on metabolic adaptations related to energy, essential molecules and waste, which take place at the cellular level. We strive to understand the causes and consequences of individual variation in such key metabolic functions. For example, in the gut, micro-organisms that are essential for digestion, energy and nutrient acquisition perform a major part of an animal’s metabolic functions. Within cells, mitochondria are the key organelles in producing energy, and are thus important links to organism performance. Our knowledge of the causes and consequences of variation in mitochondria has increased over recent years. This symposium will bring together researchers working on different aspects of metabolism, which will stimulate new research avenues and serve as an important first step in catalysing future collaborations in order to provide a more complete view on birds’ energy acquisition and expenditure.

The Eurasian-African Bird Migration Atlas: Towards Improved Understanding of Movement Patterns and More Effective Conservation Management

Conveners: Stephen Baillie, Franz Barlein

Flyway scale knowledge of the movement patterns of migratory bird populations is central to understanding their ecology and population dynamics and for their conservation and management. The Eurasian African Bird Migration Atlas, to be published online in February 2022, provides the first European scale analysis of the migrations and movements of some 300 species, based on ring recoveries and tracking data. This symposium will provide an overview of this recently published atlas and will provide a synthesis of the large-scale migration patterns and connectivity shown by different species and species groups. We will address the quantification of migratory connectivity and the extent to which migration patterns have changed over time. We will also consider direct implications for conservation and management, including implications for the management of hunted populations and the impacts of killing by man. We welcome complementary contributions documenting large-scale movement patterns and addressing the continental-scale management of migratory populations.

Living in the Anthropocene: Challenges for Migratory Species

Conveners: Aldina Franco, Ines Catry

The increasing human transformation of the face of the earth poses many challenges and diverse threats to migratory birds, especially those that travel long distances. Anthropogenic landscape changes that affect bird populations include conversion of habitats, declines in resource availability, exposure to pollution, variation in climatic suitability and increased risk of collision with buildings and energy infrastructure. Species traits influence the degree of exposure and vulnerability to these anthropogenic threats, but there are diverse responses that are poorly understood, and which are probably linked to the characteristics of migration (e.g. connectivity, migratory pathways and phenology of migration). Understanding birds’ exposure to these threats and its consequences will be essential to better design measures that minimize their detrimental impacts on bird populations. Given the scale of the observed changes that occur across large areas, it is surprisingly difficult to assess migratory birds’ vulnerability to different anthropogenic threats. New animal movement data and modelling approaches can aid with this task. This symposium will give an overview of the exposure and vulnerability of migratory bird species to multiple anthropogenic threats and will examine their contribution to explaining bird population trends.

Causes and Consequences of Phenotypic Variation in Anthropogenic Environments

Conveners: Pablo Capilla-Lasheras, Megan Thompson, Pablo Salmón

In the last century, human activity has changed the world at an unprecedented pace and its influence is virtually present in every ecosystem. Bird species living in anthropogenic environments face the novel challenge of coping with ecological conditions that their evolutionary history did not prepare them for. Despite significant efforts made to understand the overall response of birds to anthropogenic stressors, the causes and consequences of individual variation in these responses are not fully understood. For example, recent studies have found evidence for a higher degree of phenotypic variation for certain traits in populations dwelling in anthropogenic environments in comparison with those in more natural environments. What are the causes and implications of this increase in phenotypic variation? Answering this and other related questions will require the study of responses to anthropogenic disturbances at the individual level. Although challenging, investigating individual variation in the context of adaptation to anthropogenic stressors will shed new light on the mechanisms underpinning evolutionary responses to current environmental change and the resilience of avian populations in the “Anthropocene”.

Past and Current Drivers of Forest Bird Population Trends across Europe

Conveners: Jiří Reif, Johannes Kamp

Forest birds represent a major part of European avifauna, containing many species that are highly specialized on different kinds of forest habitat, as well as generalist species colonizing isolated woody patches in urban areas or farmland. However, the drivers of population change of forest birds remain understudied compared to other groups such as farmland birds. At the same time, there are indications that forest bird populations show divergent temporal trajectories in different European regions. These differences may result from the following mechanisms: (i) approaches to forest management leading to variable increases in wood volume over the past 200 years; (ii) impacts of extreme events such as bark beetle outbreaks, windstorms or fires, which are all predicted to increase in the future; and, (iii) velocity of gradual climatic changes such as temperature warming and rainfall redistribution. By inviting speakers from different European regions, this symposium aims to deepen our understanding to the processes involved in shaping the observed population changes of forest birds.

The Potential of Ecoacoustics for Large-scale Bird Monitoring

Conveners: Léa Couteille, Sofia Biffi, Jan Engler

Birds are known to be useful ecological indicators, and scaling-up efforts for monitoring bird species movements and behaviours is essential to assess thoroughly the health of ecosystems and to understand the decline of bird populations in relation to global change. Passive acoustic sensors are becoming an increasingly important biodiversity monitoring tool. In the case of birds, acoustic methods have many advantages over traditional surveying methods (e.g. improved detectability, deployment over relatively large spatial and temporal scales, cost-effectiveness, decrease in observer bias). The acoustic monitoring of bird populations has been limited historically by technological costs and constraints, but is now facilitated by the combined development of Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) and machine learning techniques. ARUs have ample battery life and storage capacity, but processing the large amount of information collected is very labour intensive. Today, the use of Machine Learning algorithms allows the cost-efficient automation of bird population monitoring over continuous, long periods of time, either by extracting ecologically-relevant information directly from the soundscape (e.g. ecoacoustic indices) or through the identification of bird songs in the data (e.g. using Convolutional Neural Networks). While automated soundscape analysis is a promising route for bird population monitoring, its development is still in its infancy: the robustness and reliability of algorithms need to be improved, and there are some challenges regarding the evaluation of their accuracy in relation to traditional measures of biodiversity. In this symposium, we aim to provide a platform for discussing the recent advances in ecoacoustics, and the theoretical and technical challenges that still need to be overcome. Our symposium will bring together researchers from ecology and bioacoustics, as well as machine learning, to provide a holistic perspective of this promising field of research.


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