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Coastal nesting birds face extinction from rising seas, flooding

Coastal nesting birds around the world may be be driven to extinction by rising sea levels and more frequent flooding from climate change, according to a 20-year study of Eurasian oystercatchers.

“Our study species, the Eurasian oystercatcher, lives in an area where flooding is becoming more common, posing a threat to the survival of the population,” said Liam Bailey of  Australian National University. “Our study found no evidence that Eurasian oystercatchers have increased the elevation of their nests, even among birds that lost a nest during a flood.”

The presence of predators or unsuitable vegetation might discourage birds from nesting higher, Bailey said.

A recent study using thousands of bird surveys along the east coast of the United States found consistent declines in coastal marsh birds, the university said.

“Researchers predict that rising sea levels and increased flooding events may drive the saltmarsh sparrow, a coastal species in the U.S. to extinction, possibly even within the next 20 years,” Bailey said.

“Like the Eurasian oystercatcher, this species does not appear to be adapting to the changing tidal conditions,” he added.

A similar study showed strong declines in coastal bird species along the coast of Northern Europe.

The research team will investigate other possible strategies that birds may use to avoid flooding, such as encouraging birds to lay their nests earlier in the year when floods are less common.

“Our work is part of a growing amount of research that shows the vulnerability of coastal bird species,” he said. “These species may need additional conservation focus in the future.”

The research was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

By: David Beasley, Staff Writer

Source: Australian National University

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