Securing a future for birds in a changing climate
Allen's Hummingbird. Photo: David Levinson
Global warming is a serious threat to California birds. A seven-year study from the National Audubon Society released in September 2014 finds that global warming threatens the survival of 170 California species in the coming decades. This includes iconic California birds such as the Brown Pelican, Allen’s Hummingbird, Yellow-billed Magpie, and many others. These are birds that all of us know well from our backyards and from our own experiences in California’s beautiful outdoors.
Audubon California is addressing this challenge by protecting the habitats that we know birds will need now and into the future, and doing what we can to lessen the severity of global warming. We’ll do this work with a variety of partners on the ground and in the halls of the State Capitol and Washington, D.C.
But we won’t be able to rise to this challenge without the involvement of California residents who care about birds. We need people not only to join us in this important work, but to also raise their voices to call for meaningful policy and legislative action on global warming.
More about the Audubon study.
Audubon analyzed 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 to understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them. Of 588 bird species examined in the study, 314 species are considered at-risk. Hundreds of species not previously considered at risk will be challenged to survive in a climate-changed future. Understanding those links then allows scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future. Learn more about the study.
Of the 314 North American birds identified by Audubon as either climate threatened or climate endangered, more than 170 commonly occur in California.
As the Environmental Protection Agency signals its intent to roll back fuel standards for new vehicles, California officials are warning that any attempt to restrict its ability to set vehicle emissions standards will be met with fierce legal opposition:
Any decision to revoke California's federal waiver could spur a major legal fight, and the state has already retained former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. The state will "vigorously participate and defend ourselves" on setting the state's own air quality rules, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said.
Automakers reportedly are pressuring the EPA to begin the process of limiting California's ability to set its own standards, which are widely adopted by other states, as well.
Fascinating piece on NPR about the demand from some Southern California communities that their air pollution problems be addressed alongside climate change policies.
Already on a fast-track to building a reliable renewable energy infrastructure, California may soon set its sights on a future that is totally fossil fuel-free. Last week, right at the deadline for new bills, California State Senate President pro tem Kevin De León introduced legislation that will hasten the state's shift to renewable energy. Senate Bill 584 will push up California's shift to 50% renewables by 2025 (five years sooner than our current goals) and 100% by 2045.
Great article in the New York Times talking about how bird migrations are perfectly suited to the availability of food and habitat -- and the climate change threatens to upset this delicate system.
National Audubon Society President David Yarnold today expressed concern about the man who has been nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt:
“Scott Pruitt’s nomination as the anti-EPA Administrator causes us deep concern," said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), Audubon’s president and CEO. "The Environmental Protection Agency's work has always been based on science, but Pruitt is a climate change denier who has worked to dismantle well-grounded protections for clean air and clean water."
Read the whole statement here.
From the melodies of songbirds to the drumming of woodpeckers, birds have long been associated with the sound of spring. Unfortunately, recent research suggests that climate change is driving changes in the calendar period we currently call spring—and that these changes are harming herbivorous and mostly-herbivorous birds.
Specifically, the research observed how different “springtime events” associated with the reproduction of various species has changed with climate in the United Kingdom. The study found that temperature, rather than precipitation, had the largest influence on the timing of breeding in birds and flowering in plants. Although these dates shifted for most animals, the most harmful consequences were found in primary consumers. Primary consumers are essentially the middle of the food chain, or animals that eat plants but are prey to other animals.
While primary consumers include insects, it also means seed-eating birds such as Larks, Cardinals, Finches and Sparrows. In California, environmental toxins and hunting have often threatened our higher-in-the-food-chain predators such as the California Condor and Brown Pelican. Unfortunately, climate change is beginning to threaten the smaller birds too—the ones we may sometimes take for granted as an inherent part of our springtime surroundings.
Madrone Audubon Society are involved with a phenology program designed by Sandy DeSimone of Starr Ranch Sanctuary. Their local paper, The Petaluma Argus Courier, recently intervied chapter members about the volunteer program.
Beginning last month, a group of 10 volunteers armed with clipboards, binoculars and data sheets began to observe the changes and behaviors of a handful of plants and birds as well as an animal at Paula Lane Open Space Preserve, logging their findings into the USA National Phenology Network “Nature’s Notebook” database, which gives scientists access to aggregated data from participants around the nation to inform their research.
A team of about five volunteers is also undergoing monthly observations of the migratory cliff swallow population that makes its home each year at the Petaluma River Bridge from March until August, according to Susan Kirks, a Petaluma resident who’s spearheading the local efforts sponsored by the Santa Rosa-based Madrone Audubon Society...
As part of the project that kicked off the week of May 16, trained volunteers spend about an hour and a half at the preserve once a month to record observations on nine bird species — including several that have been identified by the National Audubon Society as being threatened by climate change — as well as four native and non-native plant species, while also tracking the behavior of the mule deer that populate the land, Kirks said.
Read the rest of the article here.
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