Global warming threatens the survival of nearly half the bird species in the continental United States and Canada, including many birds that occur in Florida, warn National Audubon Society scientists in a groundbreaking new study released today. Just some of the birds at risk which occur in Florida include: Black Skimmer, Bald Eagle, Roseate Spoonbill, Swallow-tailed Kite, Wood Stork, and Burrowing Owl.
“Climate change is reshaping the birdlife of the continent,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida Director of Wildlife Conservation. “Some species will shift their range, but others will not have that flexibility. This groundbreaking study lays bare the threat America’s birds are facing… and the crucial role Florida will play in conserving them."
Of 588 bird species examined in the seven-year study, 314 species are classified “at risk.” Of those, 126 species are at risk of severe declines by 2050, and another 188 species face a similar fate by 2080, with the potential for species extinctions if global warming continues on its current trajectory. The Audubon report says that hundreds of species not previously considered at-risk will be challenged to survive in a climate-changed future.
Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will force many of the continent's birds to seek out better places to nest and winter. To secure their future in the face of climate change, we must conserve these species now—to make them as resilient as possible in the face of changing climate—as well as preserve the climate strongholds, habitat, they will require in the future. Monitoring these species will help track their fate and the effectiveness of conservation actions as climate change progresses.
“The greatest threat our birds face today is global warming,” said Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham, who led the investigation. “Global warming threatens the basic fabric of life on which birds – and the rest of us – depend, and we have to act quickly and decisively if we are going to avoid catastrophe for them and us.”
Over seven years, Langham and other Audubon ornithologists analyzed more than 40 years of historical North American climate data and millions of historical bird records from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count to understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them. Understanding those links then allows scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future.
Audubon's study shows how climate conditions including rainfall, temperature and changing seasons – the building blocks for ecosystems and species survival – may have catastrophic consequences when tipping those balances.
While some species will be able to adapt to shifting climates, many of North America’s most familiar and iconic species will not.
“We know that if we help avoid the worst impacts of climate change for birds, we’re doing the same for our kids. And this new report can be a roadmap to help birds weather the storm of global warming,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold.
This analysis identifies Florida as a critical climate stronghold for the continent’s birdlife. Protecting Florida’s remaining habitat is not just important to Florida, but to the birds of an entire hemisphere. Much of Florida’s habitat has been converted to other uses; still more acreage is threatened by sea level rise. This makes protecting what remains even more crucial.
“The November ballot offers Floridians an incredible opportunity to secure the habitat of the future and protect our water resources,” added Julie Wraithmell. “If you want to make a difference for Florida’s birds and wildlife, protect the habitat they need by voting yes on Amendment 1.”
The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization.
Audubon today launched a new web portal – Audubon.org/Climate – dedicated to understanding the links between birds and global warming, including animated maps and photographs of the 314 species at risk, a technical report, and in-depth stories from the September-October issue of Audubon magazine, which is also devoted to the topic.
Learn more at www.audubon.org and follow @audubonsociety.