Birds may need a hand to weather climate change

Feb 04, 2013
This is a Pericrocotus cinnamomeus (Small Minivet). Credit: (c) Andy & Gill Swash WorldWildlifeImages.com

A new study led by Durham University and BirdLife International, shows that many bird species are likely to suffer under future climate change, and will require enhanced protection of important sites, better management of the wider countryside, and in some of the most extreme cases may need to be physically moved to climatically suitable areas to help them survive.

The priority, the researchers say, is for stronger protection and effective management of networks of important sites for which currently support priority species and could offer new habitat for birds forced to shift their distribution in future.

The research, published in the journal , examined the potential future distributions of suitable climate within conservation sites (Important Bird Areas) for 370 Asian bird species of conservation concern across the Eastern Himalaya and Lower Mekong regions.

According to the scientists, the findings demonstrate how could affect birdlife and conservation policy across the globe. The researchers say that adapting the way that conservation sites are managed, and facilitating the movement of species to suitable areas, will be critical to future conservation.

Projections show that at least 45% and possibly up to 88% of the 370 species studied will experience declines in suitable climate, leading to changing species composition at individual sites.

The study considered almost 500 scenarios of each bird species' response to future climate change and showed, for the first time, that despite uncertainty in future climate projections, it was extremely likely that these changes in bird communities would occur. However, the site network as a whole is still likely to retain suitable climate for all species in future, meaning that current should be strengthened, but also adapted.

Co-lead author, Dr Robert Bagchi, a Research Fellow at the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Zurich, who conducted the analysis while at Durham University, said: "It is striking that despite big differences among these scenarios, they agree on the final outcome. Even under the least extreme scenarios of climate change, most species we examined will have to shift their ranges in order to find suitable areas in the future."

The regions studied by the research team include the countries of, Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as parts of Nepal and India.

Co-lead author, Dr Stephen Willis, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, said: "As climate changes, we may have to assist birds to move to more suitable locations to help them survive. Although many birds will adjust their distributions, and will find new habitats with suitable climate, we need to manage the countryside to help them disperse, or even relocate birds in the most extreme cases.

"We expect there to be 24 times as many 'losers' as 'winners' in terms of bird species losing or gaining habitat in the future."

The researchers explored climate change impacts on birds in the biodiversity hotspots of the Eastern Himalaya and the Lower Mekong. They then forecasted the likelihood of the IBA (Important Bird Area) network to maintain suitable climate for species of conservation concern.

Co-author, Dr Stuart Butchart, Head of Science at BirdLife International, said: "Overall, while these important sites will continue to sustain bird species of conservation concern, climate change will modify which species each site will be suitable for.

"We therefore need to adapt our conservation management. The good news, however, is that protecting natural habitats benefits people too, helping communities to adapt to climate change. Healthy ecosystems enhance resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change and reduce the vulnerability of people."

The results show that IBAs in the Lower Mekong region were affected more negatively than those in the Eastern Himalaya. Many parts of these regions will experience significant turnover of (the rate of birds newly colonising or becoming locally extinct) over time.

Explore further: Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Birds on the move

Sep 21, 2012

(Phys.org)—Over the past 60 years, areas that have a climate suitable for certain Australian bird species have shifted much faster than previously thought, and not exactly in the expected direction.

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Apr 18, 2014

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ScooterG
1.8 / 5 (10) Feb 04, 2013
It's as if the climate change research-whores are having a contest to see who can author the most idiotic, lame-assed, dollar-wasteful study!

This study is middle school level thinking - obviously a money grab.
ubavontuba
1.4 / 5 (9) Feb 05, 2013
Birds may need a hand to weather climate change
LOL. Aren't these the same animals, descended from the dinosaurs, which have withstood every climate change Mother Earth has thrown at them, for over 150 million years?

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...