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Gobal warming may wipe out most birds

Posted by Pat Kershaw on November 15, 2006

sunset160404.jpgABC News in Science� – Global warming may wipe out most birds�Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Birds, Seabirds and migratory birds are early responders to changes in climate, according to a new report. Hmm, I hope they got the bull by the horns.

Nearly three quarters of all bird species in northeast Australia and more than a third in Europe could become extinct unless efforts to stop global warming are stepped up, a report says.

Up to 72% of bird species in northeastern Australia and 38% of bird species in Europe could disappear completely if the planet’s temperature continues to rise, according to the international environmental group WWF.

This report finds certain bird groups, such as seabirds and migratory birds, to be early, very sensitive responders to current levels of climate change,” says WWF’s director of climate change policy Hans Verolme.

“Large-scale bird extinctions may occur sooner than we thought,” he says in Bird species and climate change: the global status report, released today on the sidelines of the UN climate change conference in Nairobi.

If high rates of extinction are to be avoided, rapid and significant greenhouse gas emissions cuts must be made,” WWF says.

Rising sea levels, changes in vegetation and altered temperatures are among the effects of climate change linked to greenhouse gas emissions that impact negatively on bird species worldwide, it says.

In the Great Plains of North America, where up to 80% of the continent’s ducks come to breed, three quarters may face extinction because of adverse global warming-related changes to their habitat, the report says.

While the effects would be most significant if the Earth’s surface temperature rises 2�C above its pre-industrial level – it is currently 0.8�C above – some birds are already feeling the heat.

The penguin population of the Galapagos Islands has decreased by half since the early 1970s, due to starvation and an inability to reproduce resulting from the effects of the El Niño climate pattern.

While migratory, mountain, island, wetland, Artic, Antarctic and seabirds are all at high risk from climate change, other species that are able to move easily to new habitats will not be as badly effected, it says.

Scientists also point out that existing conservation programs do not provide sufficient protection, as bird species often shift into unprotected zones, the report says.

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