Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Audubon Study Finds Many of New York’s Birds at Risk from Climate Change

Troy, NY - Sep. 9, 2014 – A comprehensive scientific study by the National Audubon Society has revealed that more than half of North American birds are threatened by climate change.  Several of the ranges of New York’s birds, including the Common Loon, Purple Finch, Wood Thrush, and Ruffed Grouse are predicted to change dramatically.  
“Now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to be the voice of the birds and aggressively combat the urgent threat of climate change by further reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the places that birds need to thrive and survive now and into the future,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “New York State has been on the cutting edge of efforts to address climate change for decades, and we must do more to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and further protect vital habitat for birds. While some species will be able to adapt to shifting climates, many of North America’s most familiar and iconic species will not, unless we act now.”
Nationwide, of 588 bird species examined in the seven-year study, 314 species are at risk. Of those, 126 species are at risk of severe declines by 2050, and a further 188 species face the same fate by 2080 if present levels of greenhouse gas emissions are left unchecked.

Suitable habitat has always been the key to bird conservation.  Many of the species identified in this study are currently threatened by factors other than climate change, such as habitat loss and human disturbance, and are the current focus of Audubon New York’s conservation efforts to protect vital forest, grassland, shrubland and coastal habitat. Others are species that were not previously considered as requiring conservation, but Audubon’s new science suggests they will also suffer significant range contractions and shifts as a result of climate change.

“While this study predicts a dire future for some birds species, it is a wake-up call for individuals, communities, and governments to take collective actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change by further reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy use, expanding the use and availability of renewable energy, protecting and enhancing habitat, participating in citizen science programs, and creating habitat for birds in backyards,” added Crotty. “By working together now, we can give our birds, and us, a fighting chance of survival in an uncertain future.”

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 allowed scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future. Audubon’s study shows how changes in climate conditions including rainfall, temperature and humidity – the building blocks for ecosystems and species survival – may have catastrophic consequences.

 “The prospect of such staggering loss is horrific, but we can build a bridge to the future for America’s birds,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “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.”

The study, which was funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has numerous implications for conservation, public policy, and further research and provides a new suite of tools for scientists, conservationists, land managers and policy makers. For more information about links between birds and global warming, including animated maps and photographs of the 314 species, visit ny.audubon.org

Audubon New York has 50,000 members and 27 chapters throughout the state and is dedicated to conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.  The statewide network of community-based nature centers and chapters, conservation and educational programs, and advocacy engage people of all ages and backgrounds in helping birds and their habitats.  Learn more at ny.audubon.org and follow @audubonny.

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. Learn more atwww.audubon.org and follow @audubonsociety.

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