September 22, 2008

Bird Populations, Diversity Declining

Populations of common birds are declining worldwide, and the effort to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 is likely to fail due to reluctance to commit to what are often trivial sums in terms of national budgets, according to conservation group BirdLife International on Monday.

BirdLife launched a new publication and Web site called "State of the World's Birds" on Monday at the group's world conference in Buenos Aires to highlight the fast rate of biodiversity loss.

Despite the growth in public awareness of environmental challenges faced around the world, BirdLife International found data to show that the state of the world's biodiversity, as reflected by its 9,856 living bird species, continues to spiral out of control.

"Moreover, while governments have made verbal commitments to conserving biodiversity, the resources available for this fall far short of what is needed," the Web site says.

The group found that human actions are putting added pressure on bird species and habitats worldwide. Additionally, disease and invasive alien species are spreading.

"Birds provide an accurate and easy-to-read environmental barometer, allowing us to see clearly the pressures our current way of life are putting on the world's biodiversity," said Mike Rands, chief executive of the alliance of conservation groups.

Rands said that over the long term, climate change may pose the most serious stress on birds.

In Europe, 45 percent of common bird populations are on the decline. In Australia, resident wading birds have seen population losses of 81 percent in the last quarter century.

In North America, 20 common birds' populations have been halved over the last 40 years. And in Asia, populations of white-rumped vultures that numbered in the millions 16 years ago have crashed by 99.9 percent.

"Effective biodiversity conservation is easily affordable, requiring relatively trivial sums at the scale of the global economy," Rands said.

Image Courtesy PLoS One