By Daniel Wallis
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Unchecked climate change
could drive up to 72 per cent of the world’s bird species into
extinction but the world still has a chance to limit the losses,
conservation group WWF said in a report on Tuesday.
migratory insect-eaters to tropical honeycreepers and cold water
penguins, birds are highly sensitive to changing weather conditions and
many are already being affected badly by global warming, the new study
“Birds are the quintessential ‘canaries in the coal mine’
and are already responding to current levels of climate change,” said
the report, launched at a United Nations conference in Kenya on ways to
“Birds now indicate that global warming has set in motion a powerful chain of effects in ecosystems worldwide,” WWF said.
evidence demonstrates that climate change is affecting birds’ behavior
— with some migratory birds even failing to migrate at all.”
the future, it said, unchecked warming could put large numbers of
species at risk, with estimates of extinction rates as high as 72 per
cent, “depending on the region, climate scenario and potential for
birds to shift to new habitats”.
It said the “more extreme
scenarios” of extinctions could be prevented if tough climate
protection targets were enforced and greenhouse gas emissions cut to
keep global warming increases to less than 2 degrees C (1.6 F) above
Already in decline in Europe and the
United States, many migratory birds were now missing out on vital food
stocks that are appearing earlier and earlier due to global warming,
widely blamed by scientists on emissions from burning fossil fuels
In Canada’s northern Hudson Bay, the report said, mosquitoes were
hatching and reaching peak numbers earlier in the spring, but seabirds
breeding there had not adjusted their behavior.
Netherlands, it added, a similar mismatch had led to the decline of up
to 90 per cent in some populations of pied flycatchers over the last
“NOWHERE TO GO”
Predicted rising temperatures
could see Europe’s Mediterranean coastal wetlands — critical habitats
for migratory birds — completely destroyed by the 2080s, it said.
Rising temperatures were also seen having disastrous impacts on non-migratory species, as their habitat ranges shifted.
centers of species richness for birds are currently located in
protected areas, from which birds may be forced by climatic changes
into unprotected zones,” the report said.
“Island and mountain birds may simply have nowhere to go.”
the U.S., unabated warming was seen cutting bird species by nearly a
third in the eastern Midwest and Great Lakes, while almost
three-quarters of rainforest birds in Australia’s northeastern Wet
Tropics were at risk of being wiped out.
“In Europe, the
endangered Spanish imperial eagle, currently found mainly in natural
reserves and parks, is expected to lose its entire current range,”
WWF’s report said.
Also at high risk were eight species of
brightly colored Hawaiian honeycreeper, Galapagos Islands penguins and
the Scottish capercaillie — the world’s biggest grouse — which WWF
said could lose 99 per cent of its habitat because of warming.
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