Currently, we know year-round ranges for many species but not migratory routes taken by specific populations or where populations go after they migrate. Research to-date has focused heavily on temperate regions and often covers only one period of the annual cycle.
Consequences of this bias
Factors that harm or reduce animal populations remain poorly and incompletely understood. For conservation and management plans to be effective and efficient, we need to know how, where, and when these migratory animals travel.
For example, scientists are struggling to identify, quantify, and forecast how climate change and other factors will affect the biology of migratory species. Without connectivity information, efforts to adaptively manage migratory species risk being misguided, at the wrong place, or at the wrong time.
Historically, it has been extremely difficult to study migratory animals throughout their annual cycles. Fortunately, new tools and techniques are making this easier for a growing number of species.
Many questions and knowledge gaps remain, however, particularly for species that are difficult to access (e.g. marine mammals) or are very small (e.g. songbirds and invertebrates).
While satellite transmitters, geolocators, stable isotopes, and genomics advance our ability to track animals throughout their lives, we also need the right resources, leadership, and creative research to continue to advance our knowledge of animal movements.
- Ryder, T.B., J.W. Fox, and P.P. Marra. 2011. Estimating Migratory Connectivity of Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) using Geolocator and Mark–recapture Data. The Auk 128:448-453.