Recent changes in both climate and land cover have impacted populations of migrating birds in the European region, according to a new study by the Department of Biosciences at Durham University, UK
The populations of migratory birds were affected by changes in climate on the European grounds where they stopped to breed. Moreover, the changes in land cover had the greater impact in the areas that they migrate to after the breeding season, the latest comprehensive study on migratory birds said.
The researchers analysed data on the long term population trends of 61 short and 39 long distance European breeding migratory birds. The study showed that the combined effects of changes in climate and land cover accounted for about 40 percent of variation in the population trends of migratory birds. They also noted that other factors like changes in habitat quality also could impact population changes.
Professor Stephen Willis, who led the research, said that the study has shown for the first time it is a combination of European climate change and African land cover change that are key to the population declines of many long distance migrants moving between Europe and Africa,
Stephen Willis pointed out that United Kingdom has for the last many years saw major declines in many migratory bird species that arrived there to breed from their African wintering grounds. The Turtle Dove declined by 95 per cent between 1992-2017 and the Nightingale declined by 56 per cent between 1995 – 2018, the researchers said.
Lead author Dr Christine Howard said that a lot of variation in population trends remained unexplained in their study. Howard also said that other factors like agricultural intensification also impacted populations, along with changes at migratory stopping points, including hunting.
The researchers suggested an integrated approach to look into all processes affecting the migratory birds across the different grounds they inhabit throughout the year for stopping them from declining.