According to a newly released U.S. State of the Birds report, although long-term trends of waterfowl show strong increases in places where wetland conservation have improved conditions for birds and humans, birds in every other habitat (forests, grasslands, deserts, and oceans) are steadily declining. The report is published by 33 leading science and conservation organizations and agencies.
Waterbirds and ducks have increased by 18 and 34 percent, respectively, since 1970. Grassland birds are the fastest declining, with a 34 percent loss during the same period. Moreover, 70 newly identified tipping point species – including species such as the Rufous Hummingbirds, Golden-winged Warblers, and Black-footed Albatrosses – have each lost 50 percent or more of their populations over the past half a century, and are on a track to lose another half in the next 50 years.
“The rapid declines in birds signal the intensifying stresses that wildlife and people alike are experiencing around the world because of habitat loss, environmental degradation, and extreme climate events,” said Dr. Amanda Rodewald, the director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Center for Avian Population Studies.
“Taking action to bring birds back delivers a cascade of benefits that improve climate resilience and quality of life for people. When we restore forests, for example, we sequester carbon, reduce fire intensity, and create habitat for plants and animals. By greening cities, we provide heat relief, increase access to recreation, and create refuge for migrating birds.”
Fortunately, thanks to decades of collaboration among hunters, landowners, state and federal agencies, and corporations, many waterbird populations remain healthy. “This is good news not only for birds, but for the thousands of other species that rely on wetlands, and the communities that benefit from groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration, and flood protection,” explained Dr. Karen Waldrop, chief conservation officer for Ducks Unlimited.
According to the report authors, applying this “winning formula” in more habitats could help birds and other natural resources rebound, including the most threatened species of grasslands birds and shorebirds (which experienced declines of 34 and 33 percent, respectively, since 1970). In order to meet these urgent needs, a strategic combination of partnerships, incentives, science-based solutions, and the will to dramatically scale up conservation efforts is necessary.
“Everyone can make a difference to help turn declines around,” said Mike Parr, president of the American Bird Conservancy. “Everyone with a window can use simple solutions to prevent collisions. Everyone can help green their neighborhood and avoid using pesticides that harm birds. Everyone who lives in a neighborhood can bring the issues and solutions to their community and use their voice to take action.”
The State of the Birds report can be found here.
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By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer