Climate change threatens more than one-fifth of the world’s birds, according to a new report published in collaboration today by BirdLife International and Audubon. Titled The Messengers, the report draws on 92 studies and reviews—including Audubon’s own Birds and Climate Change Report—to show how birds from all seven continents will be affected by global warming.
It’s tough to say exactly how many birds will suffer from climate-induced disturbances in habitat, food availability, weather, predation, and disease. Out of 570 species considered in one recent international review (cited in the report, but not yet peer-reviewed), 24 percent are responding negatively to global warming. And while 13 percent of species seem to responding positively and 14 percent of species appear unaffected, it’s still unclear how 49 percent of species will respond to the impending global changes, the review found. “What’s striking is the global nature of this problem,” Stuart Butchart, head of science at BirdLife International, says. “There’s a consistent message that climate change is causing trouble for species in [many] places.”
Birds, it seems, are the mediums of this message; they’re highly reactive to changes in their environment, and are well studied as a result. With the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) convening in Paris next week, this “increasing body of evidence” of how global warming influences species survival becomes all the more relevant, Butchart says. “We want to draw attention to the importance of people mitigating climate change and reducing these risks.”