The world is now witnessing the first signs of a new wave of extinction of birds, the population of which has been steadily declining over the past years, said a group of scientists.
Climate change is identified as an emerging driver of bird population declines, said the study published in the journal Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Apart from this, they also said that loss and degradation of natural habitats and direct overexploitation of many species also led to the fast decline.
FIRST SIGNS OF EXTINCTION
Lead author Alexander Lees, senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom said, “we are now witnessing the first signs of a new wave of extinctions of continentally distributed bird species.”
“Avian diversity peaks globally in the tropics and it is there that we also find the highest number of threatened species,” said the author, who is also a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In the study, the scientists noted that about 48 per cent of existing bird species across the world over are known or suspected to be undergoing population declines. Populations are stable for 39 per cent of species. Only six per cent are showing increasing population trends, and the status of seven per cent is still unknown, they said.
The authors reviewed changes in avian biodiversity using data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s “Red List” to reveal population changes among the world’s 11,000 bird species. The findings are similar to the results of a seminal 2019 study which determined that nearly three billion breeding birds have been lost during the past 50 years across the United States and Canada.
“After documenting the loss of nearly three billion birds in North America alone, it was dismaying to see the same patterns of population declines and extinction occurring globally,” says conservation scientist Ken Rosenbag from the Cornell Lab. “Because birds are highly visible and sensitive indicators of environmental health, we know their loss signals a much wider loss of biodiversity and threats to human health and well-being.”
Though the authors gave a call of caution, they hope for avian conservation efforts. “The fate of bird populations is strongly dependent on stopping the loss and degradation of habitats,” says Lees. “That is often driven by demand for resources. We need to better consider how commodity flows can contribute to biodiversity loss and try to reduce the human footprint on the natural world.”
“Fortunately, the global network of bird conservation organizations taking part in this study have the tools to prevent further loss of bird species and abundance,” said Rosenberg, “From land protection to policies supporting sustainable resource-zise, it all depends on the will of governments and of society to live side by side with nature on our shared planet.”
Scientists from Manchester Metropolitan University, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, the University of Johannesburg, Pontifical Xavierian University, and the Nature Conservation Foundation held the study.