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Study warns climate change and deforestation will lead to declines in global bird diversity

of diversity appears to be accelerating. "Even more dramatic environmental change is projected for this century," they write in their paper.

To estimate the impact of climate and land use changes in their study, the researchers combined information on four projections of future global warming, agricultural expansion and human population growth from the global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment with current geographic ranges of the worlds 8,750 species of terrestrial birds.

"The most intense climate change is expected at higher latitudes, where birds are relatively species-poor and have large ranges," says Jetz of UCSD. "Dramatic levels of deforestation and other forms of land conversion are projected to continue or even increase in much of the tropics. There birds and most other taxonomic groups are especially diverse and tend to have small ranges, making them particularly vulnerable to extinction."

The researchers say that in the near future more bird species may be imperiled by deforestation than by the change of their habitat due to climate change. But together these two factors will be devastating for bird populations.

"This is akin to killing two birds with one stone," says Wilcove of Princeton. "Deforestation drives tropical species to extinction and also contributes to global climate change. Climate change, in turn, drives temperate species to extinction. The good news is that by halting deforestation we can protect both tropical and temperate birds."

The researchers say a vastly expanded network of wildlife reserves in the tropics, coupled with more ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and monitor the biodiversity impacts of climate change, will be needed to minimize global extinctions.

"The tragic irony here is that the protection of tropical forests is also one of the strongest buffers against future climate change," says Andrew Dobson, the third author of the paper and a professor of
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Contact: Kim McDonald
kmcdonald@ucsd.edu
858-534-7572
University of California - San Diego
4-Jun-2007


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