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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Global Warming Threatens 'Large-Scale' Bird Extinctions: Report


Published on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 by Agence France Presse

Nearly three quarters of all bird species in northeast Australia and more than a third in Europe could become extinct unless efforts to stop global warming are stepped up, a report said.

Seagulls in flight, June 2003. Nearly three quarters of all bird species in northeast Australia and more than a third in Europe could become extinct unless efforts to stop global warming are stepped up, a report said.(AFP/File/Marcel Mochet)
Up to 72 percent of bird species in northeastern Australia and 38 percent of bird species in Europe could disappear completely if the planet's temperature continues to rise, according to the international environmental group WWF.

"This report finds certain bird groups, such as seabirds and migratory birds, to be ealy, very sensitive responders to current levels of climate change," WWF's director of climate change policy Hans Verolme said.

"Large-scale bird extinctions may occur sooner than we thought," he said in "Bird Species and Climate Change: The Global Status Report," released here on the sidelines of UN climate change conference.

"If high rates of extinction are to be avoided, rapid and significant greenhouse gas emissions cuts must be made," WWF said.

Rising sea levels, changes in vegetation and altered temperatures are among the effects of climate change linked to greenhouse gas emissions that impact negatively on bird species worldwide, it said.

In the Great Plains of North America, where up to 80 percent of the continent's ducks come to breed, three quarters may face extinction because of adverse global warming-related changes to their habitat, the report said.

While the effects would be most significant if the earth's surface temperature rises two degrees Celsius above its pre-industrial level -- it is currently 0.8 degrees above -- some birds are already feeling the heat.

The penguin population of the Galapagos Islands has decreased by half since the early 1970s, due to starvation and an inability to reproduce resulting from the effects of El Nino.

While migratory, mountain, island, wetland, Arctic, Antarctic and seabirds are all at high risk from climate change, other species that are able to move easily to new habitats will not be as badly effected, it said.

Scientists also point out that existing conservation programs do not provide sufficient protection, as bird species often shift into unprotected zones, the report said.

The report comes as negotiations at the 12th session of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention enter their second week, with high-level officials and ministers from some of the 189 participating countries expected to attend.

Delegates are hotly debating how to replace the Kyoto Protocol, a UN treaty requiring industrialized countries to decrease emissions of greenhouse gas blamed for causing global warming, when it expires in 2012.

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