Population data for European mountain birds have been for the first time combined in a recent study, with worrying results: the abundances of mountain-specialist birds has declined by as much as 10% in the 2000s.
Ecological communities in mountain areas include species not found in any other habitats. These species are also very susceptible to climate change, as global warming is reducing their liveable habitats. In principle, species may relocate further up the mountains, but closer to the top their habitat inevitably shrinks. According to the new article, the abundance of European mountain birds has in fact declined in line with climate change projections.
The recently released study examined the population trends of 44 bird species in the 2000s in the mountain and fell regions of Fennoscandia, Great Britain, the Alps and the Iberian Peninsula. A decline was seen in 14 of the observed species, while eight of them saw significant increase.
“On average, population decline among the species studied was 7% over the 13-year research period, making the situation of mountain birds distinctly worse compared to, for example, European forest birds, whose numbers did not change during the same period,” explains Aleksi Lehikoinen, an Academy of Finland research fellow at the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus (part of the University of Helsinki), who headed the study.
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