Conservation Biology

Projects by research field

Alpine birds vs climate and land use change

Bild mit einen Vogel auf dem Baum
(c) 2017, Arnaud Barras, Nathan Horrenberger

Climate change represents a new challenge for biodiversity, especially in high-altitude/latitude ecosystems, where the increase in ambient temperature is very high. Species with a boreo-alpine distribution are therefore particularly at risk of habitat loss and range contraction. Furthermore, alpine ecosystems are undergoing changes in land use, such as abandonment of pastures, intensification of semi-natural grasslands and increase in leisure activities. As land use changes often operate concomitantly with climate change, disentangling between these two main drivers is challenging.

The main goal of the Alpine Bird Project is to identify crucial parameters of habitat selection, resource acquisition and population dynamics for two model species typical of timberline (Ring Ouzel) & alpine ecosystems (Snowfinch). Our main hypothesis is that there are specific habitat-species associations that may be more crucial than physiological constraints in dictating species’ spatial occurrence. The overarching aim is to characterise an optimal habitat profile for each species, in order to develop clear guidelines for conservation management strategies in mountain ecosystems.

Uni Bern supervisors

Prof. Dr. Raphaël Arlettaz

External collaborators

 Dr. Mattia Brambilla, MUSE of Trento

 FLA - Lombardy Environmental Foundation (link)


Niffenegger, C.A., C. Schano, R. Arlettaz & F. Korner-Nievergelt. 2023. Nest orientation and proximity to snow patches are important for nest site selection of a cavity breeder at high elevation. Journal of Avian Biology 2023: e03046. PDF

Barras, A.G., I. Candolfi & R. Arlettaz. 2022. Spatio-temporal patterns of earthworm abundance suggest time-limited food availability for a subalpine bird species. Pedobiologia 93-94: Article 150826. PDF

de Zwaan, D.R., D. Scridel, T.A. Altamirano, P. Gokhale, R.S. Kumar, S. Sevillano-Ríos, A.G. Barras, L. Arredondo-Amezcua, A. Asefa, R.A. Carrillo, K. Green, C.A. Gutérrez-Chávez, A. Lehikoinen, S. Li, R.S. Lin, C.J. Norment, K.N. Oswald, A.A. Romanov, J. Salvador, K.A. Weston & K. Martin. 2022. GABB: A global dataset of alpine breeding birds and their ecological traits. Scientific Data 9: Article Number: 627. PDF

Brambilla, M., C. Bettega, M.M. Delgado, M. De Gabriel-Hernando, M. Päckert, R. Arlettaz, S. Dirren, P. Fontanilles, J.A. Gil, M. Herrmann, S. Hille, F. Korner-Nievergelt, P. Pedrini, J. Resano-Mayor, C. Schano & D. Scridel. 2022. Insufficient considerations of seasonality, data selection and validation lead to biased species–climate relationships in mountain birds. Journal of Avian Biology 2022: e03015. PDF

Barras, A.G., S. Blache, M. Schaub & R. Arlettaz. 2021. Variation in Demography and Life-History Strategies Across the Range of a Declining Mountain Bird Species. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9: Article 780706. PDF

Barras, A.G., F. Liechti & R. Arlettaz. 2021. Seasonal and daily movement patterns of an alpine passerine suggest high flexibility in relation to environmental conditions. Journal of Avian Biology 52: Article Number e02860. PDF

Barras, A.G., V. Braunisch & R. Arlettaz. 2021. Predictive models of distribution and abundance of a threatened mountain species show that impacts of climate change overrule those of land use change. Diversity and Distributions 27: 989-1004. (PDF, 2.9 MB)

Delgado, M.d.M., R. Arlettaz, C. Bettega, M. Brambilla, M. de Gabriel Hernando, A. España, Á. Fernández-González, Á. Fernández-Martín, J.A. Gil, S. Hernández-Gómez, P. Laiolo, J. Resano-Mayor, J.R. Obeso, P. Pedrini, I. Roa-Álvarez, C. Schano, D. Scridel, E. Strinella, I. Toranzo & F. Korner-Nievergelt. 2021. Spatio-temporal variation in the wintering associations of an alpine bird. Proceedings of the Royal Society. Series B, Biological sciences 288: article number 20210690. (PDF, 552KB)

Barras, A.G., C.A. Niffenegger, I. Candolfi, Y.A. Hunziker & R. Arlettaz. 2021. Nestling diet and parental food provisioning in a declining mountain passerine reveal high sensitivity to climate change. Journal of Avian Biology 52: Article Number e02649. (PDF, 920KB)

Resano-Mayor, J., C. Bettega, M.d.M. Delgado, Á. Fernández-Martín, S. Hernández-Gómez, I. Toranzo, A. España, M. de Gabriel, I. Roa-Álvarez, J.A. Gil, E. Strinella, K.A. Hobson & R. Arlettaz. 2020. Partial migration of White-winged snowfinches is correlated with winter weather conditions. Global Ecology and Conservation 24: e01346. (PDF, 541KB)

Brambilla, M., J. Resano-Mayor, R. Arlettaz, C. Bettega, A. Binggeli, G. Bogliani, V. Braunisch, C. Celada, D. Chamberlain, J. Chiffard Carricaburu, M.d.M. Delgado, P. Fontanilles, P. Kmecl, F. Korner, R. Lindner, P. Pedrini, J. Pöhacker, B. Rubinič, C. Schano, D. Scridel, E. Strinella, N. Teufelbauer & M. de Gabriel Hernando. 2020. Potential distribution of a climate sensitive species, the White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis in Europe. Bird Conservation International 30: 522-532. (PDF, 204KB)

Barras, A.G., S. Marti, S. Ettlin, S. Vignali, J. Resano-Mayor, V. Braunisch & R. Arlettaz. 2020. The importance of seasonal environmental factors in the foraging habitat selection of Alpine Ring Ouzels Turdus torquatus alpestris. Ibis 162: 505-519. (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Resano-Mayor, J., F. Korner-Nievergelt, S. Vignali, N. Horrenberger, A.G. Barras, V. Braunisch, C.A. Pernollet & R. Arlettaz. 2019. Snow cover phenology is the main driver of foraging habitat selection for a high‑alpine passerine during breeding: implications for species persistence in the face of climate change. Biodiversity and Conservation 28: 2669-2685. (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Scridel, D., M. Brambilla, K. Martin, A. Lehikoinen, A. Iemma, A. Matteo, S. Jähnig, E. Caprio, G. Bogliani, P. Pedrini, A. Rolando, R. Arlettaz & D. Chamberlain. 2018. A review and meta-analysis of the effects of climate change on Holarctic mountain and upland bird populations. Ibis 160: 489-515. (PDF, 606KB)

Brambilla, M., J. Resano-Mayor, D. Scridel, M. Anderle, G. Bogliani, V. Braunisch, F. Capelli, M. Cortesi, N. Horrenberger, P. Pedrini, B. Sangalli, D. Chamberlain, R. Arlettaz & D. Rubolini. 2018. Past and future impact of climate change on foraging habitat suitability in a high-alpine bird species: Management options to buffer against global warming effects. Biological Conservation 221: 209-218. (PDF, 1.0 MB)

Resano-Mayor, J., Á. Fernández-Martín, S. Hernández-Gómez, I. Toranzo, A. España, J.A. Gil, M. de Gabriel, I. Roa-Álvarez, E. Strinella, K.A. Hobson, G. Heckel & R. Arlettaz. 2017. Integrating genetic and stable isotope analyses to infer the population structure of the White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis in Western Europe. Journal of Ornithology 158: 395-405. (PDF, 930KB)


Related PhD Thesis

Barras, A.G. 2021. Assessing the response of mountain birds to rapid environmental change: conservation ecology of the Alpine Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus alpestris). PhD Thesis, University of Bern. PDF

Related Master Theses

Niffenegger, C.A. 2021. Nest site selection of the White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis in the Swiss Alps. Master Thesis. University of Bern. (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Candolfi, I.F.M. 2020. Factors ruling prey availability for Alpine Ring Ouzel throughout the breeding season: a possible phenological mismatch? Master Thesis, University of Bern. PDF

Besimo, J. 2019. Foraging ecology and wintering monitoring of the White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis) in the Swiss Alps. Master Thesis, University of Bern. PDF

Fenestraz, A. 2019. Habitat selection of the Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus alpestris at the home range and landscape scales. Master Thesis, University of Bern. PDF

Marti, S. 2018. Foraging microhabitat selection of the Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus in alpine timberline ecosystems: assessing model transferability arosss temporal and spatial scales. Master Thesis, University of Bern. PDF

Binggeli, A. 2018. Alpine avifauna facing rapid climate change: foraging micro-habitat selection of the White-winged Snowfinch in the Swiss Alps. Master Thesis, University of Bern. PDF

Barras, A.G. 2016. Foraging habitat selection by Ring Ouzels Turdus torquatus in alpine timberline ecosystems: building the evidence for species conservation management. Master Thesis, University of Bern. PDF