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Migratory birds can partially offset climate change

A new study demonstrates that birds can partially compensate for climate change by delaying the start of spring migration and completing the journey faster. But the strategy comes with a cost — a decline in overall survival. The findings by researchers from Cornell University, the University of Maryland, and Georgetown University are published in the journal Ecology.

“Understanding how animals can compensate is an important part of understanding where the impacts of climate change will play out,” said Marra. “In this case, we may not lose a species entirely, but it is possible that populations of some species may go extinct locally due to climate change…

“The good news is that birds are able to respond to changes in their environment,” Dossman said. “They have some flexibility and variation in their behaviors to begin with, but the question is, have they reached the limit of their ability to respond to climate change?”…

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Wildlands Network

Continental Wildways

The Eastern Wildway runs all the way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Initiatives of this size and scope play a big role in what we need to make an impact.

Sustaining biodiversity requires a big-picture vision. Our projects are strategically positioned across Canada, the United States and Mexico to preserve nature at a continental scale.

Using the principles of conservation biology, our founders identified the core native wildlife habitat areas and the corridors that connect them. We call them Wildways. This innovative concept has fundamentally shaped conservation projects across North America.

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Western Ny
Western NY Wildway

A bold initiative

There's a window of time in which land trusts, communities, and conservation groups can conserve wildlife conservation corridors before they are lost to unrelenting development. Results of this also mean protecting waterways, soil health, and community spaces.

The Western New York Land Conservancy is leading an effort to create the WNY Wildway, an ambitious long-term plan to protect and connect the largest of their region’s remaining forests. The Wildway will connect the vast forests of northern Pennsylvania to the Great lakes, through to the Finger Lakes, the Adirondacks, and beyond. It will form part of the Eastern Wildway which runs all the way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Wildway will allow plants and animals to roam across the land as they once did, to move as climate changes, and to expand their ranges and ensure their survival. It will allow wildlife that have disappeared from their region to return home.

You can learn more, and perhaps draw inspiration for your own region, by viewing their “story map” which provides images as well as text to convey the challenges and solutions.

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Climate change presents a mismatch for songbirds’ breeding season

Sometimes it seems like climate change is an abstract concept — yet for birds, it's getting increasingly real. You can share articles like this and talk about how transitioning to compatible renewables is more important than ever, for the birds — and for others.

Spring is the sweet spot for breeding songbirds in California’s Central Valley — not too hot, not too wet. But climate change models indicate the region will experience more rainfall during the breeding season, and days of extreme heat are expected to increase. Both changes threaten the reproductive success of songbirds, according to a study from the University of California, Davis…

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The science of solar-pollinator habitat: a fact sheet

Ground-mounted solar is expected to cover 8-10 million acres as part of our collective effort to transition away from fossil fuels and significantly bring climate change into check. Pollinator-friendly solar could play an important role in biodiversity and agricultural efforts.

Land trusts and community groups can help their communities understand how the design, implementation, and management of solar fields can work to enhance biodiversity and pollinators as well as farming and ranching. In this case, a recent fact sheet by the AgriSolar Clearinghouse provides useful information share.

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Climate change threatens the Great Plains, but bison may hold a key to resilience

Partnerships between tribal nations, land trusts, and universities are on the rise related to prairie management, biodiversity, and slowing down (and/or adapting to) climate change. This article touches on many of those concepts, including bison and cattle management.

“The 8,600-acre Konza Prairie Biological Station where Kansas State conducts its bison research lies in the Flint Hills, North America’s biggest remaining stretch of tallgrass prairie.

Once one of North America’s major ecosystems — covering large swaths of the Great Plains from what is today central Texas to south-central Canada — settlers and their descendants destroyed more than 95% of the continent’s tallgrass prairie for cropland and other development. Tallgrass in the Flint Hills escaped the plow only because the region’s shallow soil and rocky layers made farming less practicable there…

Bison act and eat differently than cattle do, though biologists say not all the differences are clear yet. Few studies compare these two bovine herbivores side by side.

Still, a few differences jump out. The bigger species not only eats more grass, it also spends less time along streams than cattle do and more time on hilltops…”

Cattle may not boost plant biodiversity on the prairie as much as bison do, but The Nature Conservancy thinks it’s possible to manage them in ways that support healthier grassland.

They are working with a Flint Hills cattle rancher near Strong City in Kansas, along with Kansas State scientists, to see how fitting a herd with GPS collars might help….

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Biodiversity safeguards bird communities under a changing climate

A new study shows that North American bird communities containing functionally diverse species have changed less under climate change during the past 50 years than functionally simple communities.

Community-level diversity works as a buffer against negative climate change impacts, especially during winter, i.e the season that has shown strongest climatic warming across the Northern Hemisphere.

On the other hand, biodiversity played a smaller role during the breeding season. Indeed, earlier studies have shown that bird communities change faster during winter than summer, which explains this pattern…

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Climate change, habitat loss (and, yes, even cats) pose a greater threat to birds than windmills

This piece was written in consultation with Dr. Brian Weeks, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. Weeks is an evolutionary ecologist who studies how bird species and communities have responded to environmental change.

Research quantifying the full scale of wind turbine activity’s impact upon birds both through their migratory patterns and killed by collision with wind turbines is a matter of current scientific studies. It is important to quantify these impacts, but it is also important to acknowledge that these impacts are certainly negligible compared to other drivers of bird mortality.

The number of birds killed by wind turbine collisions per year is estimated to be between 150,000 and 500,000, but when you put this number in perspective, it pales in comparison to other causes of bird mortality…

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Nearly 3 billion birds gone

Watch this a short video by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology about findings on North America’s steep bird declines.

The first-ever comprehensive assessment of net population changes in the U.S. and Canada reveals across-the-board declines that scientists call “staggering.” All told, the North American bird population is down by 2.9 billion breeding adults, with devastating losses among birds in every biome. Forests alone have lost 1 billion birds. Grassland bird populations collectively have declined by 53%, or another 720 million birds.

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Dopeyden / Getty Images stock

Just hearing or seeing birds can boost our mental health, new report suggests

Birds can be a catalyst for climate action. Renewable energy is going to be critical for bird survival; we can help people understand the importance by connecting to what they care about.

“Our main finding is that there is a time-lasting association between seeing or hearing birds and improved mental well-being,” said the study’s lead author, Ryan Hammoud, a PhD candidate and a research assistant at the institute of psychiatry and psychology and neuroscience at King’s College London…

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