The National Wildlife Federation

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Shifting Skies

  • Doug Inkley, Ph.D.
  • Jun 18, 2013

Our nation’s birds and other wildlife are currently dealing with a climate crisis that grows worse with each passing year.

Climate stressors are expected to cause large contractions in the ranges of even some of the common and widespread species we enjoy today. Some bird species will be pushed closer to extinction.Migratory species, such as most birds, face the unique challenge of climate change affecting the multiple habitats they require to breed, migrate and overwinter. Bird ranges are shifting and populations changing. The timing of migration and breeding are changing, affecting the availability of food needed to raise their young.

The very landscapes birds inhabit and upon which they rely are showing the effects of climate-driven changes. Forests are now encroaching on the formerly treeless Alaskan tundra, and deciduous forests are moving up mountains, crowding out alpine coniferous habitats. Millions of acres of pine forests in the West are being decimated by unprecedented epidemics of pine beetles, and catastrophic wildfires are reconfiguring habitats throughout the West. Coastal beaches and marshes are being drowned by rising seas.

The climate crisis must and can be addressed. To reduce the magnitude and threats of climate change, America must be a leader in taking swift, significant action to reduce carbon pollution. This means using the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from the largest sources, including power plants, oil refineries and cars. Moreover, it is essential to plan energy policies that support a rapid and responsible transition away from fossil fuels and advance the clean, renewable energy sources needed to build a clean, healthy energy economy here at home.

We must also work now to prepare for and address the effects of climate change on all our natural resources and wildlife, including birds. Because of the warming already underway we will be unable to avoid many of the impacts of climate change. However, we can reduce and accommodate some of the effects by modifying our approaches to wildlife conservation and natural resource management in ways that take into account the new challenges posed by the changing climate.

Shifting Skies

Urgent action needed to protect birds and their habitats.

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