World bird populations are steadily declining

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Staggering declines in bird populations are occurring around the world, according to a study by scientists from multiple institutions published May 5 in the journal Annual Review of Environment and Resources.

The loss and degradation of natural habitats and the direct overexploitation of many species are cited as the main threats to avian biodiversity. Climate change is identified as an emerging driver of bird population decline in the State of the World’s Birds study.

Corn bunting in Haskovo, Bulgaria.

“We are now seeing the first signs of a new wave of continent-wide distributed bird species extinctions,” said lead author Alexander Lees, a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK and also associate researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Avian diversity peaks globally in the tropics and it is also where the greatest number of endangered species are found.”

The study reveals that around 48% of the world’s extant bird species are known or suspected to be experiencing population declines. Populations are stable for 39% of species. Only 6% show increasing demographic trends, and the status of 7% is still unknown. The study 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 11,000 species of birds. birds of the world.

The findings mirror findings from a groundbreaking 2019 study that determined nearly 3 billion breeding birds have been lost over the past 50 years in the United States and Canada. The lead author of this study is also one of the authors of this Global Status Report.

“After documenting the loss of nearly 3 billion birds in North America alone, it was appalling to see the same patterns of population decline and extinction occurring on a global scale,” says Ken Rosenberg. , a retired Cornell Lab conservation scientist. “Because birds are highly visible and sensitive indicators of environmental health, we know that their loss signals a much wider loss of biodiversity and threats to human health and well-being.”

Despite their findings, the study authors say there is hope for bird conservation efforts, but transformative change is needed.

“The fate of bird populations depends heavily on halting habitat loss and degradation,” Lees said. “This is often driven by the demand for resources. We need to better consider how raw material 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 participating in this study have the tools to prevent further loss of bird species and abundance,” Rosenberg said. “From land protection to policies supporting the sustainable use of resources, it all hinges on the willingness of governments and society to live side by side with nature on our shared planet.”

This study was conducted by scientists from Manchester Metropolitan University, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birdlife International, University of Johannesburg, Pontifical Xavierian University and the Nature Conservation Foundation.

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