There are about 11,000 species of birds on Earth. Almost half of them suffer serious stock losses at times. On the other hand, only six percent of all bird species are growing in number. This is the startling conclusion of a global study conducted by Alexander Lees of Manchester Metropolitan University and his team in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources.. The working group wrote that birds living in the tropics, mountains, and polar regions are particularly affected.
“We are now seeing the first signs of a new wave of extinctions in continental bird species,” says Lees. Previous extinction events have mainly affected island species, but widespread destruction of landscapes, especially in the tropics, is now causing species to become extinct here as well. In Brazil, for example, at least three species have disappeared since the turn of the millennium. Many bird species that were once so popular have also collapsed, sometimes dramatically. For example, willows were considered common birds in parts of Asia only a few decades ago, but they were mostly eaten.
North America and Europe have also been affected: both continents have also lost billions of birds in recent decades. The reason here is mostly intensive agriculture, which deprives animals of their habitat and food. A similar pattern appears in the tropics. “Bird diversity is highest in the tropics, and here the number of endangered species is higher,” says Lis.
Habitat destruction, industrial agriculture and poaching are the main causes, but climate change is also playing an increasing role. This applies above all to species found in polar latitudes and in high mountains, where global warming is progressing strongly and leading to smaller habitats. The tropics seem to have been affected just as much as Costa Rica points out. There, the area of the rainforest has increased again, but the number of birds has shrunk – perhaps due to a lack of food: rising temperatures, changing rainy seasons and droughts make life difficult for local insects – and thus also for birds.
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