Tag Archives: Birds

African birds take steps to survive

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Birds are responding to climate change and land degradation threats by using nature reserves as stepping stones to cross Africa and find new habitats that provide refuge against extinction LONDON, June 27 − Birds of the dry savannah in Tanzania are moving west to find habitats that meet their survival needs − and they are taking advantage of man-made buffer zones to make the journey Although the nature reserves were set up with mammals in mind, as a means of helping them to cope with the pressures of human development, they have proved a lifeline for species such as hornbills and francolins that decide to move to survive climate change and the degrading of their former habitat. This is the first scientific evidence that birds in Africa are moving in response to climate and environmental changes. Researchers from York University, UK, reporting in the Ecology Letters journal, used decades of data from the Tanzania Bird Atlas project and found that the 139 species studied had shifted their range up to 300 kilometres over recent decades. The findings change the debate over whether national parks and game reserves are of use in the face of climate change. It now appears that they are a vital link in allowing wild bird species to find new homes on their own.

Protected network

Lead author Dr Colin Beale, of York University’s Department of Biology, said: “Although the protected area network was set up for mammals, our research shows it is assisting dry bush species of birds to respond to land degradation, caused by over-grazing, conversion to crops and the loss of trees, as well as climate change. “We discovered that rather than declining in value as birds move in response to climate changes, protected areas in Tanzania are becoming increasingly valuable as land degradation exerts pressures elsewhere. “Our research suggests that protected areas are buffering the bird community against extinction due to land degradation and offer stepping stones for species that are altering their distribution in response to climate change.” The York University study, which also involved researchers from Queens University Belfast and the strategic research organisation Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, compared data for Tanzanian savannah bird species, such as hornbills, francolins, the rufous-tailed weaver, Fischer’s sparrow-lark and the Pangani longclaw. Data from 1960 to 1989 was compared to data post-2000.

Citizen scientists

The study was based on actual observation of the birds, rather than computer modelling, with hand-held GPS units linking to satellites to get absolute accuracy. Neil Baker, from Tanzania Bird Atlas, said: “This study once again emphasises the value of the long-term collection of reliable, meaningful data, and the vital role of the citizen scientist. Indeed, with so few professionals in the Afrotropics, this is the only way to collect this information. Co-author Dr Jack Lennon, from the School of Biological Sciences, Queens University Belfast, said: “Our main discovery is that conservation investment in protected areas is paying off, even for species that are not the main reason for having them. As environmental change continues, it is likely that the importance of protected areas as a refuge against extinction elsewhere will increase.” The study was funded by a Marie Curie Fellowship from the EU held by Dr Beale, with additional funding from the Rural and Environmental Research and Analysis Directorate of the Scottish Government. − Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Birds are responding to climate change and land degradation threats by using nature reserves as stepping stones to cross Africa and find new habitats that provide refuge against extinction LONDON, June 27 − Birds of the dry savannah in Tanzania are moving west to find habitats that meet their survival needs − and they are taking advantage of man-made buffer zones to make the journey Although the nature reserves were set up with mammals in mind, as a means of helping them to cope with the pressures of human development, they have proved a lifeline for species such as hornbills and francolins that decide to move to survive climate change and the degrading of their former habitat. This is the first scientific evidence that birds in Africa are moving in response to climate and environmental changes. Researchers from York University, UK, reporting in the Ecology Letters journal, used decades of data from the Tanzania Bird Atlas project and found that the 139 species studied had shifted their range up to 300 kilometres over recent decades. The findings change the debate over whether national parks and game reserves are of use in the face of climate change. It now appears that they are a vital link in allowing wild bird species to find new homes on their own.

Protected network

Lead author Dr Colin Beale, of York University’s Department of Biology, said: “Although the protected area network was set up for mammals, our research shows it is assisting dry bush species of birds to respond to land degradation, caused by over-grazing, conversion to crops and the loss of trees, as well as climate change. “We discovered that rather than declining in value as birds move in response to climate changes, protected areas in Tanzania are becoming increasingly valuable as land degradation exerts pressures elsewhere. “Our research suggests that protected areas are buffering the bird community against extinction due to land degradation and offer stepping stones for species that are altering their distribution in response to climate change.” The York University study, which also involved researchers from Queens University Belfast and the strategic research organisation Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, compared data for Tanzanian savannah bird species, such as hornbills, francolins, the rufous-tailed weaver, Fischer’s sparrow-lark and the Pangani longclaw. Data from 1960 to 1989 was compared to data post-2000.

Citizen scientists

The study was based on actual observation of the birds, rather than computer modelling, with hand-held GPS units linking to satellites to get absolute accuracy. Neil Baker, from Tanzania Bird Atlas, said: “This study once again emphasises the value of the long-term collection of reliable, meaningful data, and the vital role of the citizen scientist. Indeed, with so few professionals in the Afrotropics, this is the only way to collect this information. Co-author Dr Jack Lennon, from the School of Biological Sciences, Queens University Belfast, said: “Our main discovery is that conservation investment in protected areas is paying off, even for species that are not the main reason for having them. As environmental change continues, it is likely that the importance of protected areas as a refuge against extinction elsewhere will increase.” The study was funded by a Marie Curie Fellowship from the EU held by Dr Beale, with additional funding from the Rural and Environmental Research and Analysis Directorate of the Scottish Government. − Climate News Network

Climate Change puts even “safe” species at risk

For immediate release Work by 100 scientists over five years reveal that more than half the species studied are in danger because of a warming planet. LONDON, 13 June – Climate change doesn’t just threaten species that are already vulnerable – it could have alarming consequences for a huge range of birds, corals and amphibians that no-one had considered in danger of extinction before, according to a new study. Wendy Foden of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s global species programme and colleagues examined the findings of 100 scientists over the last five years and looked for the biological and ecological characteristics that might make an animal more or less sensitive or adaptable to climate change. Many of the planet’s birds, corals and amphibians are already threatened with extinction, often because of unsustainable logging, the growth of agriculture and so on, and climate change is likely to make their plight even more precarious. But unexpectedly, the authors report in the journal PLOS One – the Public Library of Science  – that they also found that 83% of the birds, 66% of the amphibians and 70% of the corals highly vulnerable to climate change, are not, right now, considered to be in need of conservation measures. Alarming surprises The study focused on the three taxonomic groups because all three have been well studied – naturalists have described 9,856 species of bird; 6204 species of amphibian and 797 reef building corals and the fact that they can be numbered so precisely is an indicator of the attention paid to these groups – and because they contain creatures that dwell on land, in freshwater and in the oceans: the three great “biomes” or homes for life. “The findings reveal alarming surprises,” said Foden. “We hadn’t expected that so many species and areas that were not previously considered to be of concern would emerge as highly vulnerable to climate change. “Clearly, if we simply carry on with conservation as usual, without taking climate change into account, we’ll fail to help many of the species and areas that need it most.” Her IUCN colleague and co-author Jean-Christophe Vié called the research “a leap forward” for conservation.  Besides providing a clearer picture of the challenge, he said “we now also know the biological characteristics that create their climate change ‘weak points’. This gives us an enormous advantage in meeting their conservation needs.” Resources disappear That climate change due to human-induced greenhouse greenhouse gas emissions presents a threat to other species is not of itself news: Climate Network News stories have almost every month highlighted hazards to humans and mammals, to figs and fig wasps, to species caught in swiftly-moving climate zones, and to those sub-Arctic plants and animals that actually depend on snowfall to offer some sort of stable cover for the winter. But there has always been a tacit assumption that the first victims of changing climate would be among those species already at risk: the IUCN’s Red List number 20,000 of these. The new maps of areas at risk now suggest that the problems of conservation extend much wider. The Amazon region hosts the highest concentrations of vulnerable birds and amphibians, and the “coral triangle” of the central Indo-West Pacific is home to the highest numbers of vulnerable corals. A separate study of the so-called Albertine Rift – the western part of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley – has already listed plants and animals most likely to decline because of climate change: these include 33 plants used for fuel, construction, food and medicine and 19 species of freshwater fish and 24 mammals used by humans as sources of food. Jamie Carr of the IUCN said “This is particularly important for the poorest and most marginalised communities who rely most directly on wild species to meet their basic needs.” – Climate News Network

For immediate release Work by 100 scientists over five years reveal that more than half the species studied are in danger because of a warming planet. LONDON, 13 June – Climate change doesn’t just threaten species that are already vulnerable – it could have alarming consequences for a huge range of birds, corals and amphibians that no-one had considered in danger of extinction before, according to a new study. Wendy Foden of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s global species programme and colleagues examined the findings of 100 scientists over the last five years and looked for the biological and ecological characteristics that might make an animal more or less sensitive or adaptable to climate change. Many of the planet’s birds, corals and amphibians are already threatened with extinction, often because of unsustainable logging, the growth of agriculture and so on, and climate change is likely to make their plight even more precarious. But unexpectedly, the authors report in the journal PLOS One – the Public Library of Science  – that they also found that 83% of the birds, 66% of the amphibians and 70% of the corals highly vulnerable to climate change, are not, right now, considered to be in need of conservation measures. Alarming surprises The study focused on the three taxonomic groups because all three have been well studied – naturalists have described 9,856 species of bird; 6204 species of amphibian and 797 reef building corals and the fact that they can be numbered so precisely is an indicator of the attention paid to these groups – and because they contain creatures that dwell on land, in freshwater and in the oceans: the three great “biomes” or homes for life. “The findings reveal alarming surprises,” said Foden. “We hadn’t expected that so many species and areas that were not previously considered to be of concern would emerge as highly vulnerable to climate change. “Clearly, if we simply carry on with conservation as usual, without taking climate change into account, we’ll fail to help many of the species and areas that need it most.” Her IUCN colleague and co-author Jean-Christophe Vié called the research “a leap forward” for conservation.  Besides providing a clearer picture of the challenge, he said “we now also know the biological characteristics that create their climate change ‘weak points’. This gives us an enormous advantage in meeting their conservation needs.” Resources disappear That climate change due to human-induced greenhouse greenhouse gas emissions presents a threat to other species is not of itself news: Climate Network News stories have almost every month highlighted hazards to humans and mammals, to figs and fig wasps, to species caught in swiftly-moving climate zones, and to those sub-Arctic plants and animals that actually depend on snowfall to offer some sort of stable cover for the winter. But there has always been a tacit assumption that the first victims of changing climate would be among those species already at risk: the IUCN’s Red List number 20,000 of these. The new maps of areas at risk now suggest that the problems of conservation extend much wider. The Amazon region hosts the highest concentrations of vulnerable birds and amphibians, and the “coral triangle” of the central Indo-West Pacific is home to the highest numbers of vulnerable corals. A separate study of the so-called Albertine Rift – the western part of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley – has already listed plants and animals most likely to decline because of climate change: these include 33 plants used for fuel, construction, food and medicine and 19 species of freshwater fish and 24 mammals used by humans as sources of food. Jamie Carr of the IUCN said “This is particularly important for the poorest and most marginalised communities who rely most directly on wild species to meet their basic needs.” – Climate News Network