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Species Loss and Climate Change: Birds in Mexico

Jul 07, 2015 02:43 PM EDT
Flame-colored Tanager
The flame-colored tanager is native to western mountains in Mexico. The mostly warm country has lost many bird species to climate change, to scientists' surprise, researchers said in a recent report.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Despite scientists' expectations that global warming would affect bird species' activities only in less-tropical areas, they have found that in Mexico in the 20th century, bird species have shown a wide range of gains and losses due to climate change. Researchers with University of Kansas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad reported their findings recently in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

"Of all drivers examined...only temperature change had significant impacts on avifaunal turnover; neither precipitation change nor human impacts on landscapes had significant effects," the authors wrote in the study.

In their research, they compared current distributions with those in the middle 20th century for 115 bird species found only in Mexico. Those were then compared with bird community changes to patterns of change in climate and land use, according to a release.

The scientists created maps based on data about bird occurrences in Mexico from the Atlas of Distributions of Birds of Mexico project, collected from 1920 to1950; and 890,000 records of bird occurrences collected since 2000 by citizen scientists and deposited in a database, according to the release.

Among birds species endemic to Mexico, losses greatly outweighed gains. The few gains were mainly in the central-northern Chihuahuan Desert and in Baja California, said a release.

The findings may provide useful information for Mexican policymakers, the release said.

"When you design protected areas, like national parks or biospheres for biodiversity conservation, that design needs to take into account how climates are changing," he said, according to the release. "They've done major planning, more than in the U.S., for present-day distributions of species. But climate change must be taken into account because those distributions are changing."

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