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Climate Change Imperils Birds, Raises Stakes in Conservation Battle

2010 State of the Birds is Nation’s First Assessment of Birds’ Vulnerability to Climate Change


AUSTIN, TEXAS | March 11, 2010

All 67 United States oceanic bird species, such as petrels and albatrosses, are among the most vulnerable birds on Earth to climate change, according to a new report released today by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The 2010 State of the Birds report on climate change – a collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and experts from the nation’s leading conservation organizations – is the first comprehensive vulnerability assessment of bird species to global warming across the U.S. The report shows that climate changes resulting from a warming Earth will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats, with oceanic and Hawaiian birds in greatest peril.

“One message from this report on climate change emerges loud and clear: only committed collective action can protect nature’s resources.” Salazar said. “It is up to us to safeguard our nation’s birds, their habitats, and the environment we all share and depend on, for our own lives and those of future generations.”

Key findings from the report:

  • For bird species that are already of conservation concern such as the Golden-cheeked Warbler, Whooping Crane, and Spectacled Eider, the added vulnerability to climate change may hasten declines or prevent recovery.
  • The report identified common bird species such as the American Oystercatcher, Common Nighthawk, and Northern Pintail, that are likely to become species of conservation concern as a result of climate change.
  • Oceanic birds are among the most vulnerable species because they don’t raise many young each year; they rely on a rapidly changing marine ecosystem; and they nest on islands that may be flooded as sea levels rise.
  • Birds in coastal, arctic/alpine, and grassland habitats, as well as those on Caribbean and other Pacific Islands show intermediate levels of vulnerability; most birds in aridlands, wetlands, and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change.

“Birds are excellent indicators of the health of our environment, and right now they are telling us an important story about climate change,” said Dr. Ken Rosenberg, director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Many species of conservation concern will face heightened threats, giving us an increased sense of urgency to protect and conserve vital bird habitat.”

“The effective efforts already taking place to protect rare bird species, conserve habitats, and remove threats need to continue,” said David Mehlman of The Nature Conservancy “In some areas, these efforts need to be greatly expanded to meet the threat posed by climate change.” The dangers to these birds reflect risks to everything we value: our health, our finances, our quality of life and the stability of our natural world,” said Audubon’s Glenn Olson. “But if we can help the birds weather a changing climate, we can help ourselves.”

“While there is much to be concerned about in this report, we can reduce climate change’s impacts by taking immediate action to reduce carbon emissions and find creative conservation solutions to help birds adapt to the changes that are already in process.” said David Pashley ,Vice President of the American Bird Conservancy.

The report offers solutions that illustrate how, by working together, organizations and individuals can have a demonstrable positive impact on birds in the U. S. Specifically, the report indicates that the way lands are managed can mitigate climate change and help birds adapt to changing conditions. For example, conserving carbon-rich forests and wetlands, and creating incentives to avoid deforestation can reduce emissions and provide invaluable wildlife habitat.

The report is the product of a collaborative effort between federal and state wildlife agencies, scientific, and conservation organizations including The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated creation of the 2010 State of the Birds report on Climate Change as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, which includes partners from American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. D.A. Forest Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org

Contact information

Misty Edgecomb
Media Relations Manager
The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania
(610) 834-1323
medgecomb@tnc.org

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