Bye Bye Birdie: 50% of North American Birds Threatened by Climate Change
According to a study conducted by the National Audobon Society, 314 species of North American birds are in serious trouble in the face of climate change. 588 species were studied meaning that more than fifty percent of the species are at risk.
These results are based on sophisticated climate models and the collection of a hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations. Climate conditions necessary for bird survival were defined and then cross-referenced with conditions likely to exist as global warming persists.
Out of the 314 species, 126 are classified as climate-endangered, meaning they are expected to lose fifty percent of their present range by the year 2050, given that the earth’s climate continues to change. 188 species are considered climate-threatened and projected to lose half their current range by 2080, though these species may alter their patterns and adjust to the changes. The climate-endangered species may not be able to shift in time.
This study is both the broadest and most detailed ever conducted of bird range changes. The data collected from volunteer birdwatchers spans a century and includes data from the annual Christmas Bird Count.
According to Audubon board member Terry Root, a biologist at Stanford, the study is based on a best-case scenario where North America warms by 2-4 degrees Celsius.
As the Audubon Society’s chief scientist Gary Langham put it,
“When you realize that only nine bird species have gone extinct in continental North America in modern times, and then you see that we’re looking at 314 North American bird species at risk by the end of this century—it just takes your breath away.”
Birds will certainly not be the only animal impacted by climate change. If we don’t take steps soon to mitigate the damage we’re doing to our planet, we may be on the brink of disaster. The potential loss of animal species, possible megadrought and rising mercury levels in the ocean are jut a few of many scary scenarios.