Quantcast

Audubon Society: North American Birds Are Threatened by Climate Change

Climate

Some of North America’s birds may no longer be at home on the range. More than half of 588 studied species could lose more than 50 percent of their flying, breeding and feeding space before the end of the century—because of climate change.

The bald eagle, iconic bird of the U.S. is among the North American species threatened by climate change.

Photo credit: Softeis via Wikimedia Commons

The researchers who discovered the precarious future facing so many species say they were shocked to find that rising temperatures could have such widespread effects on the continent’s birds.

The finding comes from one of the world’s most distinguished ornithological bodies, the U.S. National Audubon Society.

Gary Langham, Audubon’s chief scientist, and colleagues report in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One that they used mathematical models and results from two long-established annual surveys in the breeding season and in winter to estimate future geographic range shifts.

Systematic Study

The research was based on huge amounts of data. The society’s Christmas Bird Count has been continuous since 1900, and provides a good estimate of numbers in those species that overwinter.

And the North American Breeding Bird Survey, a systematic study conducted between mid-May and July in the U.S. and Canada, involves tens of thousands of three-minute counts of every bird seen or heard at 50 stops along a 39-kilometer route.

The scientists also used three different climate change scenarios—as carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere because of fossil fuel combustion, so the planet’s average temperature rises and climate changes—to explore the possible futures for bird species in a vast landscape that is home to everything from eagles to hummingbirds.

They found that 314 species would lose half or more of their traditional range.

Of this total, around 180 species would find that although they would lose the range they had, they would probably be able to acquire new feeding or breeding habitat, as conditions changed. But for 120, the habitat would shrink altogether—that is, there would be nowhere else for them to go.

The world’s birds are in trouble—and not just on land or on one continent.

Conservation Measures

One in eight species is threatened with extinction, although in the better-developed nations, there have been systematic attempts to establish conservation measures.

The Audubon study, however, found that the strategies devised and supported now to extend conservation might not be of much use in a world in which climates changed and habitat that had endured for 10,000 years was destroyed, degraded or exploited.

“We were shocked to find that half of the bird species in North America are threatened with climate disruption,” Dr Langham says.

“Knowing which species are most vulnerable allows us to monitor them carefully, ask new questions, and take action to help avert the worst impacts for birds and people.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Earth Has Lost Half of Its Trees Since Dawn of Civilization

Why Did 60,000 Endangered Antelopes Mysteriously Die in Four Days?

Ocean Plastic Will Be Found in 99 Percent of Seabirds by 2050

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new study shows that half of all Arctic warming and corresponding sea-loss during the late 20th century was caused by ozone-depleting substances. Here, icebergs discharged from Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier. Kevin Krajick / Earth Institute / EurekAlert!

The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.

Read More
Diane Wilson holds up a bag full of nurdles she collected from one of Formosa's outfall areas on Jan. 15. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog

By Julie Dermansky

On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.

After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa in 2017, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.

Read More
Sponsored

By Simon Coghlan and Kobi Leins

A remarkable combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and biology has produced the world's first "living robots."

Read More
Malaysian Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin (front 2nd L) and officials inspect a container containing plastic waste shipment on Jan. 20, 2020 before sending back to the countries of origin. AFP via Getty Images

The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.

Read More
Trump leaves after delivering a speech at the Congress Centre during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on Jan. 21, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed the concerns of environmental activists as "pessimism" in a speech to political and business leaders at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.

Read More