Monday, December 14, 2009

More Species to Be Affected by Climate Change

The Wildlife Conservation Society last week issued a report on animal species that could be harmed by climate change (opens as pdf). They wanted to publicize some lesser known species that have a lot to lose even if polar bears get more attention (not always for good reasons). The biggest worries tend to be about species with limited ranges or that cannot move much closer to the poles.

There are a few birds on the WCS list. Here are the explanations for their inclusion:

  • Bicknell's Thrush: "Scientists have found that a mean temperature increase of just 1 degree Celsius would reduce by more than half the critical mountaintop breeding habitat for the Bicknell’s thrush, a songbird that breeds only in eastern North America. Given the limited availability of this habitat, WCS is developing management practices to inform the conservation of these high elevation areas."
  • Magellanic Penguin: "Climate-induced changes, including shifts in ocean temperatures and prey availability, are making reproduction difficult for Magellanic penguins. WCS research indicates that in the last decade, the penguins have been laying their eggs later in the season and swimming farther away from their nests in search of food when they have eggs and chicks. The largest breeding colony of this species in Patagonia has declined more than 20 percent in the last 20 years."
  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper and other migratory birds that breed in the Arctic: "Shorebirds migrate from all over the world to breed on the coastal plain of Arctic Alaska, where WCS scientists have observed a variety of impacts from climate change. Buff-breasted sandpipers are nesting more than 10 days earlier than they did 25 years ago—a change that may reflect an earlier emergence of their insect prey. How this timing shift affects this species’ migratory movements throughout their range is unknown."
  • Flamingo: "Flamingos breed and feed in shallow wetlands, where water depth and quality impact their access to food and their ability to breed successfully. At WCS project sites in the Caribbean, South America, Asia, and Africa, climate change could threaten flamingos through changing weather patterns that influence water quality and availability—and potentially a wetland’s suitability to support flamingos."
Unfortunately they punt a bit and just name broad categories for a few taxa, such as "Various Primate Species,"  "Coral," and "Numerous Amphibian Species." Even the last bird, "Flamingo," is not really a species but a group. If they have evidence of these groups being threatened, they ought to be able to name a few examples.