Land conversion and climate threaten land birds

Jun 05, 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: NYSCF Research Institute announces largest-ever stem cell repository

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Alpine lifelines on the brink

Oct 21, 2014

Only one in ten Alpine rivers are healthy enough to maintain water supply and to cope with climate impacts according to a report by WWF. The publication is the first-ever comprehensive study on the condition ...

Research that holds water

Oct 21, 2014

Water is a vulnerable resource coming under increasing pressure in many parts of the world. The Research Council of Norway is providing funding to a number of research projects seeking to solve challenges related to the supply ...

Carbon capture and storage—reality or still a dream?

Oct 17, 2014

To have any chance of avoiding dangerous climate change we'll have to reduce the carbon emissions from our energy sectors—currently the largest human source of greenhouse gas emissions globally. And we'll ...

Recommended for you

New feather findings get scientists in a flap

9 hours ago

Scientists from the University of Southampton have revealed that feather shafts are made of a multi-layered fibrous composite material, much like carbon fibre, which allows the feather to bend and twist to ...

User comments : 0