Moun­tain birds de­clin­ing in Europe

December 13, 2018

Population data for European mountain birds have been for the first time combined in a recent study, with worrying results: the abundances of mountain-specialist birds has declined by as much as 10% in the 2000s.

Ecological communities in mountain areas include species not found in any other habitats. These species are also very susceptible to climate change, as global warming is reducing their liveable habitats. In principle, species may relocate further up the mountains, but closer to the top their habitat inevitably shrinks.

According to the new article, the abundance of European mountain birds has in fact declined in line with climate change projections.

The recently released study examined the population trends of 44 bird species in the 2000s in the mountain and fell regions of Fennoscandia, Great Britain, the Alps and the Iberian Peninsula. A decline was seen in 14 of the observed species, while eight of them saw significant increase.

"On average, population decline among the species studied was 7% over the 13-year research period, making the situation of mountain birds distinctly worse compared to, for example, European forest birds, whose numbers did not change during the same period," explains Aleksi Lehikoinen, an Academy of Finland research fellow at the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus (part of the University of Helsinki), who headed the study.

The situation is the direst for species that only inhabit mountain regions and are unable to live in other European environments. For these species, known as mountain specialists, the numbers dwindled by as much as 10% during the monitoring period.

Changes in land use also threaten moun­tain birds

Regional differences were noted in the population trends of mountain birds, their numbers significantly dropping in Finland, Sweden and Norway, as well as on the Iberian Peninsula. In Great Britain and the Alps, the numbers remained more stable.

"In addition to climate change, an abundance of mountain birds are affected by human land use. For example, on the Iberian Peninsula the reduction of grazing on mountain fields may result in afforestation, which in turn will lead to a decline among mountain species inhabiting open terrain," notes Päivi Sirkiä, a research coordinator at Luomus.

Indeed, the researchers emphasise the importance of carrying on the monitoring and research to determine regional causes of the trend. Monitoring mountain birds is more challenging than that of birds living in low-lying areas.

"The bird count target species often live far from human settlements, which is why we are particularly appreciative of the contribution made by volunteer bird-watchers," Sirkiä notes.
-end-
The study was carried out in collaboration between 12 countries as part of a Europe-wide bird monitoring network. The results were published in the esteemed international journal Global Change Biology.

University of Helsinki

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.