Many species migrate long distances annually between their breeding and wintering areas1. Although global change affects both ranges, impact assessments have generally focused on breeding ranges and ignored how environmental changes influence migrants across geographical regions and the annual cycle2,3. Using range maps and species distribution models, we quantified the risk of summer and winter range loss and migration distance increase from future climate and land cover changes on long-distance migratory birds of the Holarctic (n = 715). Risk estimates are largely independent of each other and magnitudes vary geographically. If seasonal range losses and increased migration distances are not considered, we strongly underestimate the number of threatened species by 18–49% and the overall magnitude of risk for 17–50% species. Many of the analysed species that face multiple global change risks are not listed by International Union for Conservation of Nature as threatened or near threatened. To neglect seasonal migration in impact assessments could thus seriously misguide species’ conservation.

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Data availability

All data except the GLOBIO land cover data are publicly available; bird range maps at www.birdlife.org, climate data at www.worldclim.org, bird trait data at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3306933, and bird phylogenetic data at www.birdtree.org. The GLOBIO land cover scenarios were provided by courtesy of M. Bakkenes and are not publicly available.

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Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


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D.Z. received funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF, grant no. PZ00P3_168136/1) and from the German Science Foundation (DFG, grant: ZU 361/1-1). N.E.Z. and C.H.G. acknowledge support from SNF (grant nos 31003A_149508/1 and 310030L_170059 to N.E.Z., grant no. 31003A_173342 to C.H.G.). We are indebted to M. Bakkenes for providing the global land cover scenarios.

Author information


  1. Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

    • Damaris Zurell
  2. Dynamic Macroecology, Department of Landscape Dynamics, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland

    • Damaris Zurell
    •  & Niklaus E. Zimmermann
  3. Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland

    • Catherine H. Graham
  4. Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa

    • Laure Gallien
  5. Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Univ. Savoie Mont-Blanc, LECA-Laboratoire d’Écologie Alpine, Grenoble, France

    • Laure Gallien
    •  & Wilfried Thuiller
  6. Department of Environmental Systems Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH, Zurich, Switzerland

    • Niklaus E. Zimmermann


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D.Z. and N.E.Z. conceived the general idea and designed the study with the help of all authors. D.Z. ran the analyses and led the writing. All authors interpreted results and significantly contributed to writing and editing the manuscript.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Damaris Zurell.

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