Roughly one in eight bird species around the world face potential extinction because of agricultural practices, logging, invasive species, hunting, climate change and habitat loss.
That’s 1,469 of the world’s 10,996 bird species, according to BirdLife International. Overall, 40 percent of the world’s bird species are in decline, according to the group’s new report, The State of the World’s Birds. And that is a clear sign of poor health in one ecosystem after another around the world, as humans continue to put the biosphere into a tailspin.
“The data are unequivocal. We are undergoing a steady and continuing deterioration in the status of the world’s birds,” Tris Allinson, BirdLife’s senior global science officer, and the report’s chief editor, said in a statement. “The threats driving the avian extinction crisis are many and varied, but invariably of humanity’s making.”
Overfishing and climate change are key factors in the decline of seabird species, especially the Atlantic puffin (shown above) and the black-legged kittiwake. The snowy owl is another well-known species threatened in particular by climate change. In fact, the researchers find, a quarter of 570 species studied are already suffering from the effects of climate change, which will only intensify in the future. The report continues:
It is now widely acknowledged that we are in the midst of a mass extinction event, the sixth such episode in our planet’s 4.5 billion year history and the first to be driven by the actions of a single species—humans. Scientists estimate that species are disappearing at a rate 100 to 10,000 times faster than the natural rate, with perhaps dozens of species going extinct every day. Yet, as these highly variable estimates reveal, the paucity of our knowledge about the natural world means there is considerable uncertainty as to the true extent of the crisis. A few groups of organisms, however, are well known: none more so than birds, whose risk of extinction is comprehensively assessed by BirdLife using the criteria of the IUCN Red List. The situation they reveal is alarming.
The report does list 25 conservation success stories of pulling bird species back from the brink of extinction. “Although the report provides a sobering update on the state of birds and biodiversity, and of the challenges ahead, it also clearly demonstrates that solutions do exist and that significant, lasting success can be achieved,” said Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s CEO. The report describes a number of them, and provides a graphic showing the highest priority actions:
BirdLife International updates its State of the World’s Birds report every five years.
Photo: Atlantic puffins; Creative Commons license via Pixabay.