With at least 350 North American bird species traveling to South or Central America in the fall and returning in the spring, environmental groups say climate change is the biggest threat to such migratory birds. In the wake of the hottest summer on record in 2012, officials at the National Wildlife Federation say migratory birds "are at particular risk, requiring multiple and specialized habitats to breed, raise their young, migrate and overwinter."
They cite dried up wetlands and "shrinking mountaintop cool zones" as obstacles to overcome, in addition to rising temperatures.
The effect on the cod fishery
Warming waters appear to be reducing the plant life that feeds Atlantic cod larvae, undoing efforts to rebuild a once-major New England fishery, a recent study finds.
A paper from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast Fisheries Science Center concluded that two key zooplankton species have declined in cod habitats off the coast of New England, where sea surface temperatures have risen.
The researchers observed the distribution of five zooplankton species from more than 30 years of data off the Northeast coast. They matched this with records of sea surface temperatures dating back to 1854, and cod stocks over three periods -- before, during and after the historic low points in cod populations.
They were surprised to find that a zooplankton species that once flourished in Georges Bank, a fishing area off the Atlantic Coast from Rhode Island to Maine, had dropped.
The entire release is below:
June 24, 2013 – Climate change is altering and destroying important habitats that New England’s migratory birds depend on and urgent action is needed to change that dangerous flight path, according to a new report released by the National Wildlife Federation. Shifting Skies: Confronting the Climate Crisis details how a warming climate could lead to a decline in some bird populations and even extinctions if we don’t take action to reduce carbon pollution and adopt climate-smart conservation strategies.
“We are already seeing New England’s birds like the blackpoll warbler and the Bicknell’s thrush at risk from climate change impacts including habitat changes and changes in nesting seasons”, said Hector Galbraith, staff scientist for the Northeast office of the National Wildlife Federation. “Climate change is a massive threat to birds right now. We need to act, or we will see declining bird populations”.
Shifting Skies explains that migratory birds face unique challenges. Each season they require different places to live, often thousands of miles apart, to raise their young, migrate and overwinter. At least 350 species in North America fly to South or Central America every fall and return in the spring. The report describes how climate change is adversely affecting bird behavior and includes specific examples in many regions of the U.S.:
“Piping Plovers are struggling along our coast in New England right now”, said Pam Hunt of New Hampshire Audubon. “Between sea level rise and the potential of storms like Sandy destroying their nesting areas, they are perched on a razor’s edge. We must not only protect their habitat but also curb climate change in order to ensure super storms and extreme weather events don’t wipe them out altogether”.
The National Wildlife Federation report recommends the following concrete steps to curb climate change and its impacts on migratory birds, such as sea level rise, wildfires, drought and more extreme weather events:
“Coastal and marine birds, like puffins, that birders and all New Englanders hold dear are under threat right now”, said Jeff Wells from the Boreal Songbird Initiative. “Birding is enjoyed by many and brings hundreds of millions of dollars annually to our economy in New England. We know the steps we need to take to safeguard not just birds but all wildlife, our communities, and current and future generations of Americans from climate change. Now is time to act, we owe this to future generations of birders.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2012 was America’s hottest year on record.
“We must take action nationally and internationally to curb climate change.” said Carol Oldham, Northeast Regional Outreach Director for the National Wildlife Federation. “We need to stop pumping out carbon pollution and move to clean renewable energy, and New England’s Senators and Representatives are a key part of making that happen. We’ll need to work together to solve these challenges, not just across local, state, and federal boundaries, but across party lines.”
In January, the National Wildlife Federation issued a report on how the climate crisis is impacting America’s wildlife. Read Wildlife in a Warming World at NWF.org/ClimateCrisis. Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.