Monday, March 15, 2010

ENV: State of the Bird World

'State of the birds 2010' highlights threats to migrants

Climate change threatens to further imperil hundreds of species of migratory birds, already under stress from habitat loss, invasive species and other environmental threats, concludes a new report released by United States' Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change, follows a comprehensive report released a year ago showing that that nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline.

"For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses such as commercial hunting, loss of forests, the use of DDT and other pesticides, a loss of wetlands and other key habitat, the introduction of invasive species, and other impacts of human development", Salazar said. "Now they are facing a new threat - climate change - that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction."

The report is the product of a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, between federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organisations including partners from National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the U.S.), the American Bird Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It shows that climate changes will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats, with oceanic and Hawaiian birds in greatest peril.

"Just as they did in 1962 when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, our migratory birds are sending us a message about the health of our planet", Salazar said. "That is why - for the first time ever - the Department of the Interior has deployed a coordinated strategy to plan for and respond to the impacts of climate change on the resources we manage."

Audubon President, Dr Frank Gill commented, "This groundbreaking report must be a rallying cry for the millions of people who care about birds and nature. It took countless citizen and professional scientists to gather the data that made the report possible and it will take even more committed people to address the peril it reveals. Together we can alter the future, just as Audubon has done for more than a century."

"This groundbreaking report must be a rallying cry for the millions of people who care about birds and nature" —Dr Frank Gill, Audubon (BirdLife in the U.S)

Key findings from the 'State of the Birds' climate change report include:

* Oceanic birds are among the most vulnerable species because they don't raise many young each year; they face challenges from a rapidly changing marine ecosystem; and they nest on islands that may be flooded as sea levels rise. All 67 oceanic bird species, such as petrels and albatrosses, are among the most vulnerable birds on Earth to climate change.

* Hawaiian birds such as endangered species Puaiohi Myadestes palmeri and ’Akiapōlā’au Hemignathus munroi already face multiple threats and are increasingly challenged by mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species as climate change alters their native habitats.

* Birds in coastal, arctic/alpine, and grassland habitats, as well as those on Caribbean and other Pacific islands show intermediate levels of vulnerability; most birds in aridlands, wetlands, and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change.

* For bird species that are already of conservation concern such as the Golden-cheeked Warbler Dendroica chrysoparia, Whooping Crane Grus americana, and Spectacled Eider Somateria fischeri, the added vulnerability to climate change may hasten declines or prevent recovery.

* The report identified common bird species such as the American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus, Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor and Northern Pintail Anas acuta that are likely to become species of conservation concern as a result of climate change.

"The dangers to these birds reflect risks to everything we value: our health, our finances, our quality of life and the stability of our natural world", said Audubon's Glenn Olson. "But if we can help the birds weather a changing climate, we can help ourselves."

The report offers solutions that illustrate how, by working together, organisations and individuals can have a demonstrable positive impact on birds in the U.S. Specifically, the report indicates that the way lands are managed can mitigate climate change and help birds adapt to changing conditions. For example, conserving carbon-rich forests and wetlands, and creating incentives to avoid deforestation can reduce emissions and provide invaluable wildlife habitat.

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