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: Groundwater recharge in the American west under climate change

Related Stories

Counting the carbon cost of forest destruction

November 16, 2017

The world is losing its trees, but at what cost? Better estimates of deforestation and degradation could shed light on the amount of CO2 emitted, refine climate models and help developing countries better manage their forests.

Recommended for you

Heavy nitrogen molecules reveal planetary-scale tug-of-war

November 17, 2017

Nature whispers its stories in a faint molecular language, and Rice University scientist Laurence Yeung and colleagues can finally tell one of those stories this week, thanks to a one-of-a-kind instrument that allowed them ...

Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity

November 17, 2017

Specially tailored, ultrafast pulses of light can trigger neurons to fire and could one day help patients with light-sensitive circadian or mood problems, according to a new study in mice at the University of Illinois.

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.