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Climate Change and Migratory Birds

Adverse changes in the weather surroundings have been under process for a long time, and their effect on the ecosystem is well-known. As per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research, it has been observed that shifts in residency as well on the behavioural patterns among a wide variety of species are obviously due to the variations in their surrounding or regional climate, changes in weather variability, as well as the accompanying variations in vegetative and wildlife quality. Also, as per IPCC, the predictable degradation of biodiversity in the upcoming years is solely due to adverse changes in the climate. Humans, animals and every other species directly or indirectly rely on their nearby surroundings and in a way they end up overusing and degrading the surroundings as well as humans capturing most of the land. As a result, adverse changes in the climate add to the burden on ecosystems. These variables, when combined, diminish ecological tolerance as well as human alternatives for dealing with environmental changes. It is clear that certain organisms and geographical regions are more vulnerable than others, but there is evidence to believe that migrating birds will be severely impacted. Changes in important habitats and fluctuations in the geographical region have already harmed various species and their population dynamics, and are expected to harm them significantly further in the coming years. The substitution of permafrost by woodland in the Arctic regions, loss of biodiversity in European countries, degradation and desert in North-African regions, increase in ocean levels across Asia as well as Pacific, storms in the Caribbean, and increasing temperatures in the north and south poles are only a few of the most serious impacts mankind may expect.

Biodiversity is described as the variation amongst lifeforms resulting from a variety of factors, notably variation among taxa, across species, and habitats. Asexual reproduction, agricultural pest and disease management, resource retention in sediments, and water treatment all have compelling indications that biodiversity impacts the rate, volume, orientation, and supply of key ecological activities. Furthermore, diversification has a profound impact on climate change. Diversification influences terrestrial environments’ propensity to collect atmospheric carbon, as well as their evaporation and transpiration as well as temperature fluctuations, most of which influence the environment on a continental and regional level. Diversification has an impact on environmental sequestering carbon mostly through the features of organisms, which govern how often carbon is absorbed from the environment, how much is held or stored, and how many are emitted into the atmosphere throughout the duration. In the planning and execution of climate management operations, the selection of organisms is particularly crucial for the maximum sequestering of carbon. The loss of habitat caused by deforestation and forest fires also causes global warming by releasing greenhouse gas. Additionally, when ecosystems get destroyed or endangered as a result of human activity, choices for dealing with anthropogenic climatic disruption may be limited. There is proof that ecological resiliency, or the capability to restore to its former condition following natural or human-induced disruptions, is affected when biodiversity is reduced.

The IPCC concluded in another of its assessment article that worldwide average ambient heating has climbed by 0.7 degrees Centigrade over the past centuries, with the 1980s to 1990s being the hottest period in history. The patterns of precipitation have also shifted, both geographically and chronologically, and the global sea level has increased by 0.5-0.6 metres. Climate Change and its consequences are expected to be the primary direct cause of wildlife decline and disruptions in ecological systems at the continental level for the rest of the millennium. The IPCC’s estimates predict a three to seven-degree rise in worldwide average ambient temperature over pre-industrial values by 2200, as well as an upsurge in the frequency of changes in precipitation, and a rising sea level of many centimetres.

Variations in biogeographical patterns of different species, population numbers, the frequency of breeding or migratory activities, and increase in the incidence of pests and pathogen breakouts are all exerting substantial consequences on wildlife habitats. The geographical ranges of a large number of investigated species across taxa have migrated 6 km towards the poles or 2 m in altitude every annum on aggregate. Spring activities like blooming and leaf flashing are happening 3 days sooner on median per decade, altering organism’s periodic migration. Coral reefs, which are structurally and functionally prolific habitats, have seen large, even if sometimes partly adjustable, bleaching events as a consequence of rapid ocean temperatures rising above the norm during the hottest months. For instance, there has been a case of the disappearance of the golden toad (an indigenous vertebrate) which resides generally in the Costa Rica region; its disappearance has been linked to global climate change. According to estimates environmental change will be solely responsible for the extinction or endangering of around 1000 endemic species by 2060. Most species that have low-density populations often reside in regions such as cloud forest areas, coral regions, aquatic ecosystems as well as permafrost regions. Such species often encounter tremendous climatic changes which have a profound impact on their habitat. Global warming is expected to be unprecedented in at least the previous ten thousand years, affecting biodiversity both intrinsically and extrinsically through increases in the occurrence of disruptions like wildfires, floods, and thunderstorms. Land use modification, soil and water contamination, water distribution to regulated habitats and urban systems, habitat alteration, selected commercialization of organisms, and the proliferation of exotic alien lifeforms are all likely to worsen climate-mediated ecological damage. These forces, which normally work in unison, will restrict organisms’ ability to move and habitats’ ability to vary in size in response to climate changes.

Out of all the severe changes upcoming to the earth’s ecosystems, severe changes in the climate will have the most tremendous impact in the upcoming years. Since the last 2000 years, the present climatic weather, global warming as can be seen in the 21st century is by far the most unseen sort of climate as well as a dangerous one. Such climate has already put on a lot of evidence by destroying the lives of several organisms, migratory species, as well as humans, such as in India there have been several cyclones within a year, for example- amphan and more. Migratory species are more prone to be impacted by climatic changes at a certain stage of the life cycle because they traverse long routes, are vulnerable to a wide variety of environmental impacts, and depend on a wide variety of ecological products.

These might be factors that affect all species in the region or ones that only affect migrants. The ecosystems that migrating birds rely on are changing and disappearing as a result of rising atmospheric conditions, floods, and deserts. Migratory birds require coastal wetland habitats for breeding and foraging, for example. Birds depend on such sites for sustenance and nesting spots throughout their journey. Before going on their lengthy trips, they can replenish and rest there. Rising oceans as a result of climatic changes flood these ecosystems, making them uninhabitable for seabirds and other species. Without such rest stops, the birds’ stores are depleted, and they have difficulty finishing their travels. For instance, in the Sahel area, habitat destruction is continuing due to growing desertification. As the world’s civilization grows, so does the desire for additional land to cultivate food and feed livestock, as well as the intensification of land usage. This adds to increased land deterioration and the spread of arid zones. Changing climate exacerbates the problem by reducing precipitation in the Sahel area. The desert continues to spread as a result of the drought. Since the avian species have no place to rest, traversing the dunes is among the most difficult aspects of their voyage. The extension of the Sahara, along with habitat degradation, is making it increasingly difficult for migratory birds to traverse through African-European nations to effectively traverse this natural barrier. A large number of such species fail to traverse and die. Other environments, including numerous breeding areas, such as the Siberian tundra regions known for the nesting areas of several geese species are also severely impacted. They mate and raise their young on the granite bedrock of the tundra. Changing climate, on the other hand, is quickly altering its structural stability: As the surrounding heat rises, the frozen soil thaws, allowing the forest to spread across the tundra. This greener flooring radically affects the environment and makes breeding hard for the geese. As a consequence of the forest growth, experts estimate that 11 to 94 per cent of the mating ecological region of several arctic geese species would be lost. Several migrating birds’ travel paths and yearly flight rhythms are affected by environmental temperature rise. As a response to shifting temperatures, many migrating birds alter their itineraries, reduce their journeys, or cancel them entirely. Some tiny bird populations, for instance, no longer winter in Spain, France, or northern Africa. Alternatively, they would rather stay in England and procreate. Crane species, which usually move to Portugal and Spain, have stayed in Germany with Starlings. However, their inaction has serious ramifications. Birds are not accustomed to cold weather, and in the event of a harsh winter, most of them will perish. Winters are mild, which aids the survival of resident birds. They begin to exploit food supplies and long-distance migratory breeding grounds. As a result, long-distance migrants may discover a significant population of resident birds on their nesting grounds. As a result, there is more rivalry among the species for feeding and reproductive habitats. Several birds have arrived sooner due to warmer springtime weather in some areas. British birds, for instance, travel two or three weeks sooner to their mating grounds compared to 30 years ago. As a result, they begin breeding early. Rising temperatures, on the other hand, cause flora to blossom and invertebrates to breed sooner. Consequently, these changes are not in sync with one another. Even before the baby birds emerge, the flora blooms and the bug population peaks. The birds are unable to supply adequate food for their chicks as a consequence of this imbalance. The atmosphere of the world has shifted over time. Certain bird species can adjust to such alterations, but others were unable to do so and became endangered or extinct. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Nonetheless, the changing climate humans are witnessing now is separate: human-caused climate change is accelerating, and several bird species are finding it harder to keep track of the resultant alterations. Furthermore, for certain species, adjusting to climatic changes becomes much more challenging as a result of additional man-made challenges. Many additional factors, including pollution, fragmentation, conversion, and overbuilding, contribute to the loss or degradation of the world’s surviving ecosystems. In addition, migratory bird species face obstacles such as wind farms and competition from newly imported alien species. Species that are currently in decline as a result of these causes will be particularly sensitive to climate change. In other words, climate warming may be the final straw for certain species that are already on the verge of extinction. When it comes to the various hazards that migratory birds face, one thing becomes clear: climate change is already taking place, and it is putting migratory birds in jeopardy. Long-distance migrating birds, in particular, are affected; since they are less adaptable than some other birds, they suffer the most.

The proportion of migrating bird species varies according to geographical regions. In the higher latitudes, only about 12 per cent of tropical birds move towards southern regions; though, as the distance from the equator regions continues to grow, this percentage keep increasing, and far more than 85 per cent of birds residing within the Arctic Circle move farther south. Climate dependent territory reforms are likely to be very critical in the Arctic, wherein migratory birds are very essential. Such species have restricted options for habitat relocation owing to the shortage of land at higher elevations and topography. Most of the CMS’s species are likely to be impacted by changing climate in a certain manner. At a certain stage of their life course, 85 per cent of the bird species depend on endangered ecosystems (tundra, montane, coastal, or wetland) and also a fact that several species need different types of habitats. In almost every case, the threat’s magnitude has not been determined. Variation in water governance is the most common danger to almost 55 per cent of birds, which shows the amount of significance of wetland locations for the migratory bird species. During tremendous climate conditions such as high level heat during summers or regions which are exceptionally susceptible to drought can cause a reduction in the level of water which will decrease ecological accessibility for underwater species like the Baikal Teal Anas Formosa, and accessibility of nutrients for tropical species like the Coastal Warbler Acrocephalus Paludicola that feed in such regions. By weakening the integrity of the stopping site ecosystem, environmental degradation may jeopardise migratory birds’ capacity to finish their migratory treks. Varying wind patterns (as well as a rise in thunderstorm occurrence) can pessimistically blow away the migratory ways. There has been few proof that an increased likelihood of spring storms in the Caribbean region can wreak havoc on migratory passerine species, ensuing in smaller number of birds attaining breeding regions. Some of the long-distance travelling migratory species, like the Red Knot Calidris canutus and the Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa Lapponica, are pushed to their normal parameters on their travels, so any turmoil are prone to have negative repercussions; maintaining good stopping ecosystems will be critical at this stage.

It is very crucial to reach the grounds of mating especially at proper timeframe since the mating period must coincide with the accessibility of food, whose optimum availability is moving sooner in several situations as a result of intensifying temperatures, but the penalty vary by area. The duration of availability of food may be especially important in stopover places, which are utilised for a certain amount of time, albeit there is little data to support this. Although some animal species might be able to adjust to such alterations to a certain degree, it is unknown how much. Long-distance migrants are thought to be more susceptible to morphological and physiological modifications because the senses they are using to schedule the initiation of early summer migration could no longer be strong indicators of circumstances on the breeding places, resulting in a discrepancy among expected arrival and ideal breeding period. Changing climate is underway, and it is apparent that it is having an impact on our ecosystem by further disrupting natural balances. Protecting all organisms in the world from the effects of climate disruption is not just in the interests of migrating birds, but even in our own. Now to prevent such drastic climate changes from occurring, it is in the hands of human beings to prevent any further alterations. Everyone can altogether join the fight of preventing climate change by simply doing certain things, such as reducing the amount of energy consumption (like in ACs or refrigerators), saving electricity, not putting mobile towers everywhere or near wildlife regions or breeding regions, and many more. 14th May is celebrated as the World Migratory Bird Day, wherein the government of every country can promise to develop approaches to prevent any climate change and prevent the extinction or endangering of any wildlife species.


Rushing, C.S., Royle, J.A., Ziolkowski, D.J. and Pardieck, K.L., 2020. Migratory behavior and winter geography drive differential range shifts of eastern birds in response to recent climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences117(23), pp.12897-12903.

Tomotani, B.M., van der Jeugd, H., Gienapp, P., de la Hera, I., Pilzecker, J., Teichmann, C. and Visser, M.E., 2018. Climate change leads to differential shifts in the timing of annual cycle stages in a migratory bird. Global Change Biology24(2), pp.823-835.

Vagg, R. ed., 2006. Migratory species and climate change: Impacts of a changing environment on wild animals. UNEP/Earthprint.

Zhao, Q., Arnold, T.W., Devries, J.H., Howerter, D.W., Clark, R.G. and Weegman, M.D., 2019. Land‐use change increases climatic vulnerability of migratory birds: Insights from integrated population modelling. Journal of Animal Ecology88(10), pp.1625-1637.


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