Climatic changes may affect avian population

Birds may have to be physically moved to sustainable areas

A new ornithological study carried out jointly by Durham University (United Kingdom) and BirdLife International on Asian avian populace warns that climatic changes are threatening the balance of the protected sites and “in extreme cases, birds may have to be physically moved to climatically sustainable areas for survival”.

The research published in the journal of Global Change Biology, while examining the conversation sites and Important Bird Areas (IBAs) for 370 Asian birds, expressed concern over the biodiversity hotspots of eastern Himalaya and lower Mekong River basin regions.

The study spanning across parts of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, reveals that the survival of species is now fully dependent upon how conservation sites are managed and whether movement is possible from one site to another.

The study states that either the avian population will be forced to colonise new areas or may become locally extinct if steps are not taken in time.

The ornithological projections are that “at least 45 per cent and up to 88 per cent of the 370 species studied will experience decline of suitable habitats, leading to changing species composition in specific areas...and with climate change, it is extremely likely that several conservation sites could also be affected in the process.”

Co-authors of the research paper, Robert Bagchi and Stephen Willis from Durham University’s School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences emphasise in the paper that even under the least extreme scenarios of climate change, most of the examined species will have to shift their ranges in order to find suitable areas in future.

“The need of the hour is to focus on managing the countryside to help birds disperse. The number of ‘loser’ species in terms of habitat is likely to be 24 times more than the number of ‘winner’ species,” they said.

On the Indian front, the study pointed out that in high bio-diversity areas like the north-eastern region, “it was important to expedite and implement holistic conservation processes in order to minimise the impending disaster”.

Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) director Asad Rahmani, who was a part of the study as an 'India-Partner' of BirdLife International, said that forest-dependent species, including those in protected areas may find those areas unsuitable due to climatic changes.

Dr Stuart Butchart, head of Science at BirdLife International and a co-author of the study, stressed the need to adopt a holistic landscape-based approach, stating, “We need to adapt our conservation management to sustain bird species. Protecting natural habitats benefits people too.”

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