Climate change threatens extinction for two-thirds of bird species across North America, including nearly all of those filling the forests and tundra of northern Canada, says an extensive report.
Audubon scientists say birds are an indicator species.
Now, a new report suggests that those past declines are just a prelude to something worse: almost two-thirds of all North American bird species are facing a serious threat to their survival as climate change accelerates and becomes a dominant factor in ecosystems on a continentwide scale.
To prepare the report - "Survival by Degrees: Bird Species on the Brink" - Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million bird records, including observational data from bird lovers and field biologists across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Next, they used the latest climate models to project how each species' range would shift as climate change and other human impacts advance across the continent. For South Carolina, the breeding (summer) birds will be disproportionately affected - almost a quarter (35 out of 146) of the species that nest in South Carolina are climate vulnerable. But the Audubon report says the scientific consensus is clear: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, rapidly transitioning to clean energy and investing in habitat conservation can help avoid the worst-case scenario.
"Audubon has a two pronged approach to taking on this issue", Urso says.
The report also included climate modeling based on the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, on what would happen to species at 1.5, 2 and 3 degrees Celsius of warming, and localized impacts of Earth's changing climate in the form of sea-level rise, urbanization, cropland expansion, extreme weather, fire, heavy rain, drought, false springs and lake level changes.
Last month, a paper published in Science reported North America's bird population has experienced a loss of 2.9 billion breeding adults since 1970. And while birds become more and more vulnerable, they indicate a looming effect of climate change on humans as well. "When I was a child, my grandmother introduced me to the common loons that lived on the lake at my grandparent's home in northern Wisconsin".
A new report says there's a bird emergency in the air. "Those loons are what drive my work today and I can't imagine them leaving the USA entirely in summer but that's what we're facing if trends continue".
On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Yarnold said that "birds localize and personalize climate change". As elsewhere in North America, the worst effects of climate change can be averted by urgent action.
"We already know what we need to do to reduce global warming, and we already have a lot of the tools we need to take those steps".
"Our elected officials at every level of government must hear from their constituents that this is a priority", she said. Finding new habitats can put species at risk of extinction.
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