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Global warming is squeezing out northern birds

"By carrying out this type of analysis, we have been able to predict what species are most at risk and why," said ecologist Anouschka Hof.

By Brooks Hays
The great snipe is one of several northern bird species vulnerable to climate change. Photo by Lars Edenius/Umea University
The great snipe is one of several northern bird species vulnerable to climate change. Photo by Lars Edenius/Umea University

UMEA, Finland, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- New research details the vulnerability of northern birds in a warming climate. The study, published in the journal Ecological Applications, calls on conservationists to devote extra attention to northern species being squeezed out by global changes.

Researchers in Finland and the United States worked together to determine which birds breeding in subarctic and Arctic regions will be most affected by climate change. Scientists catalogued the breeding behaviors and habitat characteristics of 180 species. Climate forecast models helped ecologists get a sense of how these behaviors and habitats will be affected by rising temperatures and shifting vegetation types.

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"By carrying out this type of analysis, we have been able to predict what species are most at risk and why," ecologist Anouschka Hof said in a news release.

The latest analysis singled out three characteristics of bird species most threatened by climate change: limited geographical distribution, niche habitat requirements and limited rates of reproduction. Examples of species which meet all three requirements are: the great snipe, the rough-legged buzzard, the red-throated pipit, the common swift, the horned lark and the bar-tailed godwit.

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To improve the chances of survival and adaption, researchers suggest conservation efforts focus on protecting the wintering, breeding and stopover grounds of vulnerable species.

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"Long-distance migratory birds are the most sensitive ones," Hof added. "And if the climate warms up, breeding grounds will decrease to bird species that have adapted to breeding in the cooler climates in the north. The problem is particularly serious to the species with long brooding periods and with specific requirements regarding their breeding habitat."

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