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Explaining and predicting animal migration under global change

Howard, Christine; Mason, Tom H. E.; Baillie, Stephen R.; Border, Jennifer; Hewson, Chris M.; Houston, Alasdair I.; Pearce‐Higgins, James W.; Bauer, Silke; Willis, Stephen G.; Stephens, Philip A.

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Tom H. E. Mason

Stephen R. Baillie

Jennifer Border

Chris M. Hewson

Alasdair I. Houston

James W. Pearce‐Higgins

Silke Bauer


Many migratory species are declining due to global environmental change. Yet, their complex annual cycles make unravelling the impacts of potential drivers such as climate and land-use change on migrations a major challenge. Identifying where, when and how threatening processes impact species' migratory journeys and population dynamics is crucial for identifying effective conservation actions. Here, we describe how a new migration modelling framework – Spatially explicit Adaptive Migration Models (SAMMs) – can simulate the optimal behavioural decisions required to migrate across open land- or seascapes varying in character over space and time, without requiring predefined behavioural rules. Models of adaptive behaviour have been used widely in theoretical ecology but have great untapped potential in real-world contexts. Applying adaptive behaviour models across open environments will allow users to explore how migratory species may adapt their routes and usage of intermediate sites in response to environmental change. We outline how SAMMs can be used to model migratory journeys through aerial, terrestrial and aquatic environments, demonstrating their potential using a case study on the common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) and comparing modelled to observed behaviours. SAMMs offer a tool to identify the key threats faced by migratory species, how they could adapt to future migratory journeys in response to changing environmental conditions and the consequences of not being able to adapt to change.


Howard, C., Mason, T. H. E., Baillie, S. R., Border, J., Hewson, C. M., Houston, A. I., …Stephens, P. A. (2023). Explaining and predicting animal migration under global change. Diversity and Distributions,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 31, 2023
Online Publication Date Nov 20, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Dec 5, 2023
Publicly Available Date Dec 5, 2023
Journal Diversity and Distributions
Print ISSN 1366-9516
Electronic ISSN 1472-4642
Publisher Wiley Open Access
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL


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