Half of all known bird species face population decline

(ORDO NEWS) — Thousands of wild bird species are becoming sick or dying due to habitat loss, climate change and overexploitation, according to new research.

According to new estimates from researchers around the world, 48 percent of living bird species are known or suspected of declining populations.

These are more than 5,000 species that face a risky future. Among the species studied, only 6 percent showed population growth.

“Now we are seeing the first signs of a new wave of extinction of continental bird species,” says conservation biologist Alexander Lees from Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, as well as from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

“Bird diversity reaches its global peak in the tropics, and that’s where we find the most endangered species.”

The horrifying results come from the same experts who estimated in 2019 that almost 3 billion breeding birds have been lost in North America since the 1970s.

In 2021, another study determined that millions of birds have disappeared from Europe over the past 40 years.

According to the latest estimates, similar trends exist across the planet, but especially in tropical, polar and alpine birds.

Without transformative action, thousands of bird species around the world are at risk of extinction or even extinction.

Compared to temperate regions, there are not many long-term data on bird population dynamics in tropical and subtropical latitudes. But in some countries, like South Africa, there is evidence that at least half of all forest-dependent birds are losing their habitat.

In all likelihood, this loss affects the number of birds, but no study has shown exactly how much.

In Costa Rica, which is famous for its biodiversity of birds, the number of birds has declined over the past decade.

A review of the literature indicates that the majority of “hot spots” for endangered bird species are found in the tropical Andes, southeastern Brazil, the eastern Himalayas, eastern Madagascar and the islands of Southeast Asia.

“Estimates based on current trends predict an overall effective extinction rate…six times the rate of total extinction since 1500,” the review authors write.

In temperate zones, such as parts of Australia, the fight is particularly severe for agricultural and forest bird species, mainly due to habitat loss.

In Japan, a similar trend is observed among the brown thrush and yellow-chested plantains, which have lost large parts of their range.

Wading birds in temperate zones seem to be doing better, mainly due to recovery efforts in North America and Europe.

According to the researchers, this conclusion is a reason not to give up. If we can limit selective logging, control wildfires and overgrazing, and improve habitat quality, we can preserve and even restore wild landscapes.

“The fate of bird populations depends to a large extent on halting habitat loss and degradation,” says Lis.

“This is often driven by demand for resources. We need to better consider how commodity flows can contribute to biodiversity loss and try to reduce human impact on nature.”

Climate change is also threatening birds, forcing them to expand or shrink their population ranges. Mountaintop birds are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures as they usually have nowhere to run. Some scientists call this problem an “escalator to extinction.”

Migratory birds may also be affected by climate change. Due to changing temperatures and changing seasons, some research suggests that birds arrive or leave their destinations either too early or too late to survive as usual.

Birds are some of the most well-studied animals on our planet, so how they live in a rapidly changing world is essential to our understanding of wildlife in general.

Birds are not only pollinators and key players in ecosystems, but also sensitive indicators of environmental health.

This is why canaries have traditionally been used to detect toxic gases in mines: what harms them will eventually affect us, as our destinies are inextricably linked.

“Fortunately, the global network of bird conservation organizations involved in this study has the tools to prevent further loss of bird species and numbers,” says retired conservation scientist Ken Rosenberg, who once worked at Cornell.

“From protecting land to policies to support sustainable resource use, it all depends on the desire of governments and societies to live side by side with nature on our shared planet.”

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