No phenotypic plasticity in nest-site selection in response to extreme flooding events.

Bailey, Liam D; Ens, Bruno J; Both, Christiaan; Heg, Dik; Oosterbeek, Kees; van de Pol, Martijn (2017). No phenotypic plasticity in nest-site selection in response to extreme flooding events. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society. Series B - biological sciences, 372(1723), p. 20160139. Royal Society of London 10.1098/rstb.2016.0139

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Phenotypic plasticity is a crucial mechanism for responding to changes in climatic means, yet we know little about its role in responding to extreme climatic events (ECEs). ECEs may lack the reliable cues necessary for phenotypic plasticity to evolve; however, this has not been empirically tested. We investigated whether behavioural plasticity in nest-site selection allows a long-lived shorebird (Haematopus ostralegus) to respond to flooding. We collected longitudinal nest elevation data on individuals over two decades, during which time flooding events have become increasingly frequent. We found no evidence that individuals learn from flooding experiences, showing nest elevation change consistent with random nest-site selection. There was also no evidence of phenotypic plasticity in response to potential environmental cues (lunar nodal cycle and water height). A small number of individuals, those nesting near an artificial sea wall, did show an increase in nest elevation over time; however, there is no conclusive evidence this occurred in response to ECEs. Our study population showed no behavioural plasticity in response to changing ECE patterns. More research is needed to determine whether this pattern is consistent across species and types of ECEs. If so, ECEs may pose a major challenge to the resilience of wild populations.This article is part of the themed issue 'Behavioural, ecological and evolutionary responses to extreme climatic events'.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > CTU Bern

UniBE Contributor:

Heg, Dierik Hans


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




Royal Society of London




Tanya Karrer

Date Deposited:

11 May 2017 12:01

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:05

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Haematopus ostralegus climate change ecology environmental cues extreme climatic event learning sea-level rise




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