Report: Climate Change Threatens Most of the World’s Bird Species

New Global Survey of Studies on Birds and Climate Change Shows Severity of Threats and Diversity of Solutions

Red-crowned Cranes. Photo: David Courtenay/Audubon Photography Awards

NEW YORK —(ENEWSPF)–November 30, 2015.   Climate change threatens to shrink and shift the ranges of most of the world’s bird species, and more than 2,300 species – more than one-fifth of the world’s total – are especially vulnerable as the climate continues to change, according to The Messengers (http://climatechange.birdlife.org), a new global synthesis of scientific studies released by BirdLife International and the National Audubon Society.

“Over time and across cultures, birds have sent us signals about the health of our environment,” wrote BirdLife CEO Patricia Zurita and Audubon CEO David Yarnold in the report’s foreword. “Birds are our closest connection to wildlife on the planet, and they still tell us about the health of the places people and birds share. Never before has their message – climate change is here and a threat to the survival of birds and people – been as clear or as urgent.”

The new report, a synthesis of hundreds of peer-reviewed studies compiled by the 119-nation BirdLife International partnership, pulls together research from multiple disciplines and every continent. The findings confirm that a warming world is already affecting birds, shifting their ranges and causing population declines, and that negative effects will increase in the future.

The report highlights 68 case studies that illustrate current and future impacts rising temperatures will have on birds, including Audubon’s groundbreaking 2014 Birds and Climate Change study. The new report concludes that the number of species expected to do worse under climate change is more than twice the number that may benefit. The report identifies the following expected impacts:

  • Climate change will result in more losers than winners;
  • Most bird species are expected to experience shrinking ranges, increasing the risk of extinction;
  • Many species may not shift their distributions as fast as climate changes, resulting in population declines;
  • Ecological communities and interactions between species will be disrupted;
  • Current threats, including extreme weather and diseases, will be exacerbated;
  • People will experience many of the same risks, and their responses could endanger nature.

While some species will be able to adapt to shifting climates, in North America many familiar and iconic species will not, as discovered by Audubon. The Bald Eagle, the national symbol of the United States, could see its current summer range decrease by nearly 75 percent in the next 65 years. The Common Loon, icon of the north and state bird of Minnesota, may no longer be able to breed in the lower 48 states by 2080. The Baltimore Oriole, state bird of Maryland and mascot for Baltimore’s baseball team, may no longer nest in the Mid-Atlantic, shifting north instead to follow the climatic conditions it requires.

Despite the severity of these threats, the report also includes a strong message of hope as world leaders gather in Paris to debate climate action. The report shows that there is still time to reduce the severity of climate change and help birds – and people – adapt in a changing world. The report’s final section illustrates how BirdLife partners around the world are engaging in the following solutions:

  • Promoting clean energy solutions for people and nature;
  • Protecting and restoring carbon-rich ecosystems;
  • Conserving, managing, and better connecting key sites to help species adapt;
  • Implementing ecosystem-based adaptation to build people’s resilience;
  • Using birds to engage people with nature, understand climate change and take action.

“The report brings together for the first time striking evidence from around the world that climate change is already causing negative population impacts for many species,” said Stuart Butchart, head of science at BirdLife International and lead author of the report. “However, a suite of case studies from different countries show that BirdLife partners are pioneering solutions to help species adapt. From creating new habitats, helping species shift their distributions, and managing Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas more dynamically, BirdLife is making conservation climate-smart.”

“Climate change and the massive disruption that it brings will amplify the need for people around the world to contribute to science-led projects,” said Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham and co-author of the report. “Through citizen science, people give scientists incredible reach into every community and insight into the conservation of birds. Together we can make the world a better place for birds and people.”

To see the report, visit http://climatechange.birdlife.org.

To learn more about Audubon’s work protecting birds from climate change and how you can help, please visit www.audubon.org/climate.

The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership. Together we are 119 BirdLife Partners in 117 countries – and growing, with almost 13 million supporters, 7,000 local conservation groups and 7,400 staff. Visit www.birdlife.org

Source: www.audubon.org