PRBO: Shift in bird species expected from warming

A new study of how climate change affects birds says dramatic changes are in store for the bird world over the next 60 years.

As much as half of California could be occupied by new bird communities by 2070 as warming of our climate leads to huge evolutionary shifts in bird distribution. Usually these shifts happen over thousands of years, according to researchers with PRBO.

“What we found is that not only will species shift and communities change, but the composition of communities in certain places will not resemble anything we see today,” said Diana Stralberg, lead author of the report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Certain species might die off or will migrate to other areas as rapid climate changes get under way. The shift will also alter vegetation, insect populations and predator distribution, the report suggests.

“This is more than just an interesting finding about birds,” said Dr. John Wiens, PRBO’s Chief Conservation Science Officer and a co-author. “Birds are nature’s barometers. If birds occur in different combinations in the future, it’s likely that other organisms such as insects and plants will as well. The reshuffling of bird assemblages that we project may just be the tip of the iceberg.”

The report is titled: “Reshuffling of Species With Climate Disruption: A No-Analog Future for California Birds?” It was published Sept. 2, 2009 in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, was conducted by scientists with PRBO, Stanford University, UC Santa Cruz and the Klamath Bird Observatory. The group studied 60 birds from various California habitats, including oak woodlands, conifer forests, grasslands, riparian and coastal scrub.

PRBO, also known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory is based in Petaluma, CA.

Full report on PLos one

News story from San Francisco Chronicle