The release of vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere is having dire consequences for bird populations, as this summary report describes.
With warmer winter temperatures becoming the norm, many animals are having difficulty adjusting for various reasons. A recent study of 59 North American birds species found that the adaptions are going slowly. For example it took 35 years for many bird species to move farther north for winter temperatures to match where they historically lived. The work was conducted at Yale University and supported through funding from the National Science Foundation. The researchers studied 35 years of data from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and found that there is a strong delay in response to climatic change. For example, Black Vultures have spread north to winter as far a Massachusetts where current winter temperature is similar to what Baltimore, Maryland was in 1975. On the other hand, the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker did not alter its range at all despite the warming trend, possibly because its very specific habitat requirements precluded a range shift. Researcher Frank La Sorte at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, comments… “when you think about it, it makes sense that species move slower than the rate at which climate is changing they’re not just tracking temperature—many of them need to follow a prey base, a type of vegetation, or they need certain kinds of habitat that will create corridors for movement.”
Variability in climate warming is likely to affect how species respond, too, La Sorte said. “But accelerated warming, which is likely as global carbon emissions continue to increase, may put additional strain on birds. The study highlights these challenges and the high potential climate change has for disrupting natural systems.”
Scientists say that 350 parts per million carbon in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. We are presently at 392 ppm and that needs to be reduced quickly for a healthier future.