Land conversion and climate threaten land birds

June 5, 2007

Land conversion and climate change have already had significant impacts on biodiversity and associated ecosystem services.Using future land-cover projections from the recently completed Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Walter Jetz, David Wilcove, and Andrew Dobson have now evaluated how all of the world's 8,750 species of land birds may be affected by environmental change.

In their study published in PLoS Biology, they find that 950 to 1800 species may be imperiled by a combination of climate change and land conversion by 2100.

These projections are based on the assumption that birds will not dramatically shift their ranges in response to a changing climate, a process that would lessen the range contractions they predict. While climate change will be the principal driver of range contractions at higher latitudes, their projections reveal that land conversion (e.g., deforestation, conversion of grasslands to croplands, etc.) will have a much larger effect on species that inhabit the tropics.

Overall, in the near future, considerably more species may be imperiled by habitat loss because of anthropogenic land conversion rather than climate driven change. This is because birds in the tropics are especially diverse and tend to have small ranges, making them particularly vulnerable to extinction; whereas birds at higher latitudes are less diverse and tend to have large ranges.

The irony here is that the protection of tropical forests is also one of the strongest buffers against future climate change. A vastly expanded reserve network in the tropics, coupled with more ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and monitor biodiversity impacts, will be needed to minimize global extinctions.

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Fish teeth and tectonic plates tell a new story about world's largest ocean current

Related Stories

Playing 'tag' with pollution lets scientists see who's 'it'

July 29, 2015

Using a climate model that can tag sources of soot from different global regions and can track where it lands on the Tibetan Plateau, researchers have determined which areas around the plateau contribute the most soot—and ...

Recommended for you

Two spin liquids square off in an iron-based superconductor

August 5, 2015

Despite a quarter-century of research since the discovery of the first high-temperature superconductors, scientists still don't have a clear picture of how these materials are able to conduct electricity with no energy loss. ...

Image: The ghost of a dying star

August 5, 2015

This extraordinary bubble, glowing like the ghost of a star in the haunting darkness of space, may appear supernatural and mysterious, but it is a familiar astronomical object: a planetary nebula, the remnants of a dying ...

Expanding theory of evolution

August 5, 2015

An Indiana University professor is part of an international team of biologists working to expand Darwin's theory of evolution to encompass factors that influence a species' growth and development beyond genetics—as well ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.