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Group says Arkansas birds threatened by global warming
News, Urban Wildlife
Group says Arkansas birds threatened by global warming

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (September 9, 2014) – Global warming threatens the survival of nearly half the birds species in the continental United States and Canada, including many of Arkansas's birds. One iconic Arkansas bird – the mallard – is among those at risk, according to the report. Another duck, the bufflehead also stands to lose much of its habitable territory in Arkansas.

"Based on Audubon's peer-reviewed scientific study, more than 300 birds across North America face serious threat or extinction. Half of those species spend all or part of their lives in Arkansas," said Dr. Dan Scheiman, director of bird conservation at Audubon Arkansas. "Our state plays a pivotal role in preventing a catastrophic decline in bird species across much of the country."

Of 588 bird species examined in the seven-year study, 314 species are at risk. Of those, 126 species face severe declines by 2050 if global warming continues unabated. Another 188 species face the same fate by 2080, according to the study. The Audubon report says that hundreds of species not previously considered at risk will be challenged to survive in a climate-changed future.

"Ducks plays a critical role in our culture, our history, and our economy," said Brett Kincaid, executive director for Audubon Arkansas. "We face the distinct possibility of children growing up to live in an Arkansas where the mallard is a rare bird, no longer a valued member of our community."

National Audubon Society chief scientist, Dr. Gary Langham, led a team of ornithologists analyzing more than 40 years of historical North American climate data and millions of historical bird records from the U.S. Geological Survey's North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This analysis helped Dr. Langham's team understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them. Understanding those links then allowed scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future.

Audubon's study shows how climate conditions including rainfall, temperature, and changing seasons – the building blocks for ecosystems and species survival – may have catastrophic consequences when tipping those balances.

While some species will be able to adapt to shifting climates, many of North America's most familiar and iconic species will not.

"We can build a bridge to the future for Arkansas's birds, but we must get to work right away" says Dr. Scheiman. "This new report can be a roadmap to help birds weather the storm of global warming. They're relying on us to do it."

Audubon also launched a new web portal – climate.audubon.org – dedicated to understanding the links between birds and global warming, including animated maps and photographs of the 314 species at risk, a technical report, and in-depth stories from the September-October issue of Audubon magazine, which is devoted to the topic.

"This report serves as a wakeup call," said Kincaid. "We can act to mitigate the damage we've already done. But we must act together – and act now."

News, Urban Wildlife