Climate change hitting bird species, shows study
By Madeline Chambers
BONN, Germany (Reuters) - One in eight of the world's birds are at risk of extinction as climate change puts birds under great pressure, a leading conservation group warned on Monday.
The population of rare birds such as the Floreana mockingbird of the Galapagos Islands or the spoon-billed sandpiper, which breeds in northeastern Russia and winters in south Asia, has declined sharply and they could go extinct, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said in a report.
The 2008 "Red List for Birds" report, published on the first day of a May 19-30 U.N. conference about biodiversity in the German city of Bonn, said 1,226 species of bird were now threatened.
The annual report, closely watched among conservationists, added eight of the world's 10,000 bird species to the Critically Endangered category, the greatest level of threat.
"The latest update of the IUCN Red List shows that birds are under enormous pressure from climate change," said Jane Smart, head of the IUCN Species Programme. The IUCN groups governments, conservation groups and scientists.
Long-term drought and sudden extreme weather are putting additional stress on habitats that threatened species depend on, said the report, noting that extinction rates were rising on continents, rather than on islands where, historically, most extinctions have occurred.
Of the 26 species that moved category due to changes in their population size, rate of decline or range size, 24 were moved up to a higher level of threat.
They included the Eurasian curlew and Dartford warbler, which lives in Europe and north-west Africa. Both were previously in the "Least Threatened" category.
"We urge governments to take the information contained in (the report) seriously and do their level best to protect the world's birds," said Smart. The U.N. Climate Panel says that burning of fossil fuels is stoking global warming.
The report showed that Brazil and Indonesia had the highest number of threatened bird species with 141 and 133 respectively.
The group picked out several other species, including the Mallee emuwren in Australia which has suffered from years of drought and is seeing its population shrink sharply.
Its habitat has become so fragmented that a single bushfire could be catastrophic, said the report.
In the Galapagos Islands, the population of the Floreana mockingbird has fallen to fewer than 60 from an estimated 150 in 1996 and is now on the Critically Endangered list because the species is vulnerable to extreme weather.
The report also pointed to some species that had fared better as a result of conservation efforts, including the Marquesan Imperial-pigeon and the little spotted kiwi.
Around 4,000 delegates at the U.N. meeting of the Convention on Biodiversity will discuss ways to safeguard the range of species and try to slow the rate of extinctions among plants and animals.
(Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)