Jun 142012

Matt MacGillivray/CC BY 2.0The resplendent quetzal faces increased competition from other birds and drier habitat due to global warming.

You might think birds, of all animals, could just pick up and move if their environment changes in a way not to their liking, but global warming poses a very real threat to the avian world: Scientists say climate change is likely to drive up to 900 bird species into extinction by the end of the century unless additional conservation measures are taken.

Tropical bird species are particularly vulnerable because they are adapted to living in a stable climate, where temperatures do not vary wildly throughout the year, according to Çağan Şekercioğlu of the University of Utah, the lead author of “The effects of climate change on tropical birds,” a scientific review of some 200 separate studies published recently in the journal Biological Conservation.

100-500 More Extinctions For Each Degree Of Warming
Surface warming of 3.5 degrees Celsius — the middle range of theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s latest estimate — by the year 2100 “may result in 600-900 extinctions of land bird species, 89 percent of which occur in the tropics,” Şekercioğlu and his co-authors Richard Primack and Janice Wormworth write. “Depending on the amount of future habitat loss, each degree of surface warming could lead to approximately 100-500 additional bird extinctions.”

caspar s/CC BY 2.0A red-capped manakin. Some manakin species in Brazil could lose up to 80 percent of their habitat.

The new article, which updates previous research from 2007, looks at different categories of birds (such as “aquatic birds in the tropics,” “arid zone species,” and “birds in human-dominated landscapes”) to assess which will be the most affected by climate change. It also examines how global warming compounds other threats, including habitat loss, hunting, invasive species, pollution, and disease.

Habitat Loss Dramatically Compounds The Problem
“[I]n some cases habitat loss [from agriculture and development] can increase bird extinctions caused by climate change by nearly 50 percent,” Şekercioğlu says, calling for further research to be conducted, degraded habitat to be restored, and more land to be protected.

It’s not just birds that are at stake. “Farmers, hunter-gatherers, nomadic herders, and others, especially in less developed countries, depend on a healthy environment, and birds are important for ecosystem services like seed dispersal and insect control,” The New York Times points out in an article about the study.

And as Şekercioğlu told the paper: “If this is happening to birds, and they can migrate, then for other organisms, it’s going to be worse.”

Published in www.treehugger.com

Nic Slocum

Nic Slocum

Nic Slocum is an experienced naturalist and wildlife guide and is best known for his escorted tours taking enthusiasts out, both in Ireland and overseas, to view and photograph whales and dolphins. Nic maintains a lifelong passion for using the written word to promote the conservation of our wildlife and wild places and has appeared as an expert commentator on both radio and TV. A zoologist by training, Nic has published articles on conservation related issues in regional and national newspapers. Nic is a director of Whale Watch West Cork.com and Whales World Wide.com

Leave a Comment

  • Dreyernp

    It is optimistic. The way things are going 90% af all life will be gone ny 2100

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-ODonnell/611473807 Patrick ODonnell

    For anyone who doesn’t think this is a valid possibility, just come down to Costa Rica and every ornithologist and birder who has spent time in the field over the past ten years will tell you about the large number of bird species that have been moving upslope for the past decade. That is how the birds that are able to are adapting to a warmer climate here in Costa Rica. As for the birds that range in colder, high elevation forests and paramo, future scenarios are grim indeed.

    Birds are not as resilient or flexible as one might think due to competition and being adapted to complex tropical ecosystems. Just this past weekend, I noticed Black-headed Nightingale-Thrushes ranging higher than I had ever seen before in areas that previously held Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrushes. 

  • http://www.whalesworldwide.com/ Nic Slocum

    Hi Figaro 1032 – blog. I don’t think anybody is trying to scare the wits out of anybody. These studies have been ongoing since the 80’s and they are often a best guess using models that are by no means crippled. The point they were trying to make I think in this article was that there are areas and bird species (and other species) adapted closely to those areas and regional climate where adaptation will be more difficult for many niche species. There are also studies that predict that many species will adapt much more quickly that previously considered possible. This is the unpredictability of natural systems. Just a point, but we are talking about climate change not warming. Climate change models for many parts of the world are far from failing miserably…they are spot on. The north east Atlantic is predicted to get colder not warmer, Arctic summer ice melts are accelerating, sea levels are rising. I do agree though, not enough emphasis is put on the felling of primary forests for palm oil production…and in the face of this Rio+20 is shaping up to be a bit of a fiasco.

  • Figaro1032-blog

    May, might, could… They simply don’t know, and want to scare the wits out of us by throwing predictions borne straight out from crippled models that fail miserably. Earth has not warmed during the last 15 years and, on any count, animals are far more flexible and resilient that that. I’s prefer that talking better about fores clearings to plant sugar cane for “green” ethanol production, as Brazil does since 25 years ago… Sad.

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