Droughts, heat waves, and wildfires have been in the news increasingly in recent years. We’ve already seen some of the fallout of these events on the natural world. A new report out of Australia finds that due in part to these natural disasters, more than 200 of the nation’s birds are now threatened.
The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2020, a collaboration of BirdLife Australia and Charles Darwin University, finds that 216 – or about 1 in 6 – of the country’s bird species are threatened. The report covers population assessments and species monitoring over the past ten years. When the last such report was released in 2011, the figure was 195.
Stephen Garnett, lead editor and professor from CDU’s Research Institute Environment and Livelihoods, says, “The results tell us clearly that without changes, many species will continue to decline or to be lost altogether. However, within our report we also have some clear instructions on how to avoid these outcomes. The 2020 report also illustrates how conservation action can turn things around when well-resourced and implemented.”
The conservation success stories include the stabilization or partial rebound of several species that had been in decline, like the Eastern Hooded Plover, Kangaroo Island Glossy Black-Cockatoo, and Eastern Bristlebird.
BirdLife Australia CEO Paul Sullivan says, “Many accounts in this action plan document successes in protecting our most threatened birds. Species with well-resourced conservation efforts have held the line. With proper investment, more populations will increase by the next action plan.”
Among the populations that need help are those impacted by the increase in fire frequency. The report notes that of 77 birds that were initially threatened by this, 26 were even worse off after the extreme 2019-2020 bushfires. An additional 90-plus species have been impacted by more frequent and severe droughts and heatwaves.
Sean Dooley of BirdLife Australia says, “What really stands out from the action plan is how quickly climate change is impacting our birds.”
Sullivan, meanwhile, believes the report illustrates how the country treats the birds in its collective care. Despite more species being threatened, he says conservation work from concerned Australians has stopped things from being much worse than they could have been.
He says, “This could easily have been a book of the dead, a compendium of species obituaries. That it is not is a testament to the efforts of those who love Australian nature.”
The plan recommends a variety of actions going forward, including improved fire management, removal of predators, and a decrease in land clearing.Whizzco