Climate change: What the birds tell us | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Climate change: What the birds tell us

Posted By on Tue, Sep 9, 2014 at 11:32 AM


Audubon Arkansas sent the video link and a new report from the National Audubon Society on the impact of warmer global temperatures on North American birds. It's based on decades of data on bird movement and climate measurement.

Bottom line: More than 300 species could disappear by the end of century.

Arkansas bottom line: The mallard is one of the bird in peril.

Ironically, a new report from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative today reports some encouraging population gains among wetland birds, including mallards, but this was explained by some unprecedented rainfall in recent years in key breeding areas.

“Many wetland bird species are doing very well,” said Duck Unlimited's Chief Scientist Dr. Scott Yaich. “We can at least partially attribute this to collective wetland conservation efforts across the continent. But, two decades of unprecedented above-average rainfall in many key breeding areas are in large part responsible for duck population increases that are masking the loss of wetland habitats documented by other studies. We continue to be very concerned about the accelerating loss of wetlands in important areas for birds and what that will mean when we inevitably enter another dry period.”

Audubon Arkansa elaborated on the national report. It said 314 of 588 species stdied are at work, with severe declines by 2050 if global warming is unabated. 

“Ducks plays a critical role in our culture, our history, and our economy,” said Brett Kincaid, executive director for Audubon Arkansas. “We face the distinct possibility of children growing up to live in an Arkansas where the mallard is a rare bird, no longer a valued member of our community.”

National Audubon Society chief scientist, Dr. Gary Langham, led a team of ornithologists analyzing more than 40 years of historical North American climate data and millions of historical bird records from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This analysis helped Dr. Langham’s team understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them. Understanding those links then allowed scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future.

Audubon’s study shows how climate conditions including rainfall, temperature, and changing seasons – the building blocks for ecosystems and species survival – may have catastrophic consequences when tipping those balances.

While some species will be able to adapt to shifting climates, many of North America’s most familiar and iconic species will not.

“We can build a bridge to the future for Arkansas’s birds, but we must get to work right away” says Dr. Scheiman. “This new report can be a roadmap to help birds weather the storm of global warming. They’re relying on us to do it.”

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