A few weeks ago I was listening to an interview with the chief scientist for the National Audubon Society, Gary Langham, on NPR. The interview focused on a recent study by the Audubon Society on birds and climate change. Specifically, results in the study that suggested certain state birds, in the future, may not inhabit the state for which they currently represent because of climate change. The interview mentioned a few key state birds such as Louisiana’s brown pelican and Pennsylvania’s roughed grouse but emphasized the future departure of the Baltimore Oriole from the state of Maryland. It makes sense, with a rapidly changing climate some birds will eventually move further and further away from their present range and establish a completely different range. This could be problematic for state legislators, sports teams, and really all of us.
How did the Audubon Society come up with these results? The study was based on data from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey, both well-known and long running citizen-scientist programs, and climate projections for a range of greenhouse gas emission scenarios. The biological and non-biological were linked by comparing the individual environmental requirements (temperature, precipitation, etc…) based on the range of each of the 588 bird species included in the study and climate projections for the years 2020, 2050, and 2080. So basically if species A requires a temperature range of 1-3 and a snow pack range of 2-5 (there would be more parameters but this is a hypothetical situation) you would compare their environmental requirements with future climate conditions in 2020 at different emission scenarios i.e. how much greenhouse gases and other nastiness are we emitting-a little, a lot, a whole lot. At scenario “a whole lot” in 2020 the environmental requirements for species A may only be found in a very small range many miles away in another state or country. Or they may not exist at all. According to the study, 314 out of the 588 species researched will lose more than half their range by 2080 across all emission scenarios. And this is just for birds.
This is the beginning of a series, there is much more to cover…stay tuned for more.
About the Illustration
Drawing inks, watercolor, and micron pens-I thought about a “missing” state bird as a missing pet you see on signs posted on the street. The bereaved owner would be the state from which the bird is listed as the state bird. This image is available via Redbubble.
The Audubon Birds and Climate Change Report: http://climate.audubon.org
National Climate Assessment: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov