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Warming Arctic could disrupt migration patterns of millions of birds

Some shorebirds travel thousands of miles to reach their Arctic breeding grounds -- breeding grounds that could soon be gone.

By Brooks Hays
Warming Arctic could disrupt migration patterns of millions of birds
Turnstones, medium-sized wading shorebirds, travel to western Alaska each year to breed. Photo by David Osborn/Shutterstock

SYDNEY, July 20 (UPI) -- Millions of birds pass through the Arctic on their annual migration routes. They arrive north to breed, expecting cool summer weather.

The effects of global warming can be measured in all corners of the globe, but the Arctic continues to experience the most dramatic rates of climatic change. Soon, researchers suggest, many bird species will find their preferred Arctic breeding grounds unsuitable.

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Hannah Wauchope, a researcher at the University of Queensland, predicts most Arctic shorebirds won't be able to breed in the Arctic by 2070.

"This means that countries throughout the world will have fewer migratory birds reaching their shores," Wauchope said in a news release.

Researchers combined their knowledge of shorebird breeding preferences with climate models to predict how global warming will affect Arctic shorebirds in the coming decades.

"Climatically suitable breeding conditions could shift and contract over the next 70 years, with up to 83 percent of Arctic bird species losing most of their currently suitable area," Wauchope said.

Some shorebirds travel thousands of miles to reach their Arctic breeding grounds. These migrations could become abandoned or disjointed, as species seek closer suitable breeding grounds. Changing migration patterns could have far-reaching effects on Arctic ecosystems.

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Researchers published their findings in the journal Global Change Biology.

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