"Global change is expected to have an enormous impact on ecosystems, and the ability of species to adapt to rapidly changing environments is a prerequisite for their survival. Particularly the Arctic is now experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate changes on earth. To predict the impact of this unprecedented change it is crucial to understand the behavioural and physiological constraints of adaptation to rapidly changing environments. Recent studies mainly emphasised the inability of species to adapt to those changes. Here we approach this problem by studying a traditionally migratory Arctic-breeding species that, in contrast, has been very successful in spreading into new environments, the Barnacle Goose. Within three decades this species underwent a dramatic change in breeding range, numbers and migratory routines. We intend to investigate the mechanisms of adaptation by intra-specific comparison of Arctic and temperate-breeding populations. A number of predictions about life-history variation among birds from Arctic and temperate environments have been put forward, pointing towards a relatively higher ‘pace-of-life’ and reduced immune defence under pathogen-poor conditions in Arctic compared to temperate populations. Our aim is to tests these predictions, in particular to investigate possible tradeoffs between immune defence and the ‘pace-of-life’ (notably the energy metabolism in young geese raised in both biota). Through this multidisciplinary project, the applicant seeks to broaden and diversify his ecological expertise by learning to apply up-to-date physiological and immunological tools.
In a nutshell, the research proposed here exploits a unique natural transfer experiment to a new climate region in a long-lived migratory species by taking advantage of intra-specific comparisons over cross-species contrasts. It integrates different biological levels, such as behaviour, physiology and ecology and links these to global change."
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