Monday, March 15, 2010


Photo © A.D. Drew/ USFWS

A new report is out on the ‘The State of the Birds’.  This report is a summary of what birds are telling about climate change.  Birds have been metaphorical for change throughout history.  Examples include: the canary in the coal mine; swallows and robins returning in the spring;  geese leaving in the fall; and migration in general.  Birds fly through the air on a path that leaves no trace.  
The report uses information about measures of species sensitivity to climate change.  Sensitivity traits include: 1) migration status measures sensitivity to distance and matching between food availability and arrival at stopover and resting places; 2) breeding habitat obligate requires use of specific habitats; 3) dispersal ability to change habitats as climate changes; 4) niche specificity to specific limited habitat and food resources; 5) reproductive potential of annual young; 6) habitat exposure to conditions likely to experience climate change.  These traits were scored by sensitivity and then overall species vulnerability to climate change was calculated.
Birds of every habitat will be affected by climate change.  Especially vulnerable are oceanic and coastal species, as sea level changes and storm intensity increases.  Places like Beaver Creek Marsh become even more important to conserve, as they are important stopover points and nesting sites for migrating species that are dependent on coastal wetlands.  The report emphasizes that conservation needs for birds have been widely assessed, but that the effects of climate change have rarely been considered.  Climate change can make things worse for birds that already have conservation concerns and new species may become conservation concerns.
Detection of climate change effects relies in part on long term records of bird counts and habitat use.  In Beaver Creek Marsh and Lincoln County these records have been maintained by groups such as Lincoln County Birders.  The importance of these historical records will increase as urban growth expands.     
Posted by michael

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