| Story by Meghan McMahon |
It is difficult to imagine a world without birds because they are ingrained in our landscape, adding to the colors and sounds of each season. Robins signal spring is near, and dark-eyed juncos are a sign winter is imminent. Many people look forward to the annual migrations of birds big and small and in between — from sweet-singing warblers to American pelicans to majestic sandhill cranes.
These and many other birds play an integral role in our environment and ecosystem, but for many bird species, populations are plummeting at alarming rates, according to the National Audubon Society. The bird population in North America has fallen by 25 percent since 1970, with the continent now home to 3 billion fewer birds than about half a century ago.
Threats to birds are vast and varied, including everything from habitat loss to the outdoor cat population, but of increasing concern is the effects climate change will have on birds. Two-thirds of the bird species in North America are at risk of extinction from global temperature rise, according to a sweeping study by the National Audubon Society titled “Survival By Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink.”
For the study, scientists for the Audubon Society studied 604 bird species from North America using 140 million bird records and then plugged that data into climate models used by more than 800 experts from across the world. This then allowed the scientists to map where each bird species might live in different climate change scenarios with temperature increases of 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees and 3 degrees Celsius.
While a global temperature change of 3 degrees Celsius may seem drastic, it’s not. If the planet continues to warm at current trends, it will increase by 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, according to National Geographic. Even slowing that warmup to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 will require immediate and drastic action.