National Audubon Society publishes groundbreaking climate report

389 bird species are on the brink of extinction - learn what you can do

On October 10th, National Audubon Society published its climate report, Survival by Degrees: 389 Species on the Brink and's a tough one.  Based on this report, up to 389 species of birds are vulnerable to climate change on top of the existing challenges birds face due to human activity.  Out of these 389 species, 179 species live or migrate through California - that's 47% of California birds!  Some of these include the Acorn Woodpecker, Allen's Hummingbird, White-crowned Sparrow, and Wilson's Warbler - all of whom call Debs home.  Another important species being severely affected is the California Quail, California's state bird and a birding favorite.

For this report, Audubon scientists studied 604 Noth American bird species using 140 million bird records, including observational data from bird lovers and field biologists across the country (including from our very own Christmas Bird Count and Bird LA Day Bird Count!).  The report is based on the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report models for 1.5, 2.0 and 3.0 degrees C of global warming. At the highest warming scenario of 3.0 C, 305 bird species face three or more climate-related impacts.

Unfortunately, that fact that bird species are rapidly declining in North America is not news - a month ago, the journal Science published a study by a joint team of conservation biologists showing that since 1970, North America has lost 3 billion birds, primarily due to the human activity.  "A lot of people paid attention to last month’s report that North America has lost nearly a third of its birds. This new data pivots forward and imagines an even more frightening future," said David Yarnold, CEO and President of National Audubon Society. The Audubon climate report shows how climate change will further exacerbate the challenges birds already face from human impact.

“Birds are an intimate part of the landscapes that define our state, from the Brown Pelicans along our coasts to the Yellow-billed Magpies of the Central Valley to the California Quail that serves as a symbol of California itself,” said Sarah Rose, executive director of Audubon California. “Yet many of these iconic birds may disappear from those landscapes and even face extinction if we don’t act immediately to curb climate change. We know what the solutions are and we have the tools to avert the worst impacts; now it’s up to all of us to get to work. Audubon is engaging elected officials at every level of government, farmers, ranchers and bird lovers across California to help save the birds and landscapes we love.”

Think about it, birds make up a huge part of our everyday life.  Even if we don't actively notice them - how many birds do you see sitting on phone wires during your commute? how many times do you hear birds chirping outside your window? Audubon Center at Debs Park's Center Director Marcos Trinidad works to actively show how much birds affect our everyday life, "One of the cool things about birds are that they're the one wild animal you interact with everyday. You would literally have to lock yourself in a room with no doors or windows, cover your ears and eyes to not see a bird in a day." Trinidad pointed out why birds matter, "Birds are an indicator species. If you listen and pay attention to their behavior, birds are telling us osmething if we choose to listen.  We need to create healthy ecosystems because if birds are leaving, who do you think will be next?"

Brooke Batman, Ph.D., Senior Climate Scientist for National Audubon Society also pointed out the importance of birds as an ecological indicator, "Birds are important indicator species, because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people too."  Brooke and her team studied climate related impacts on birds throughout North America including sea level rise, urbanization, cropland expansion, drought, extreme spring heat, fire weather, and heavy rain.  

Under the most extreme projections, California could face temperature increases of more than six degrees Fahrenheit in winter and up to nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. The resulting changes in vegetation and habitat will mean that nearly half of California’s birds could lose a substantial part of their ranges as the climate warms. Some, including the Yellow-billed Magpie, are found nowhere else and could lose nearly all their range, ultimately even facing extinction. The report identifies six climate-related threats facing California, including sea level rise, extreme spring heat, spring droughts and fire weather. As elsewhere in North America, the worst effects of climate change can be averted by urgent action.

But hope is not lost.   “We already know what we need to do to reduce global warming, and we already have a lot of the tools we need to take those steps. Now, what we need are more people committed to making sure those solutions are put into practice,” said Renee Stone, vice president of climate for the National Audubon Society. The report indivates 5 key steps all Californians can take to stave off some of the most extreme temperature scenarios!  Check them out below:

  1. Reduce your use of energy at home and ask elected officials to support energy-saving policies that reduce the overall demand for electricity and that save consumers money.
  2. Ask elected officials to expand consumer-driven clean energy development that grows jobs in local communities – like solar or wind power. Not sure how to do that?  Learn how at one of our Advocacy Workshops here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park!
  3. Reduce the amount of carbon pollution released into the atmosphere. In order to drive down carbon emissions, we will need innovative economy-wide solutions that address every sector of the economy – like supporting legislation imposing a fee on carbon emissions. Another option is to address carbon emissions one sector at a time like setting a clean energy standard for electricity generation.
  4. Advocate for natural solutions, from increasing wetlands along coasts and rivers that absorb soaking rains to protecting forests and grasslands that are homes to birds and serve as carbon storage banks.
  5. Learn about Audubon's Plants for Birds program and plant drought-tolerant and native plants at your home or encourage at your office to reduce water usage and help birds adapt to climate change.  New to native plants?  Learn more about California plants - how to plant, care for, and maintain them - at one of our Volunteer Service Days every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday!  Help us make Debs Park and the LA River a haven for birds during migration and year round! 

Looking to see how climate has been affecting your community?  Audubon's climate report includes an interactive zip-code based tool, the Birds and Climate Visualizer which allows you to see what birds are being affected in your community.  Climate change has local and immediate effects, so it's important to see what you can do to make sure birds can thrive!

Still have some questions?  Reach out to us!  Staff at the Audubon Center is happy to explain parts of the climate report that you might find confusing.  We're here to help!

    How you can help, right now