Climate change makes migrations longer for birds

April 15th, 2009 - 2:42 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 15 (ANI): In a new research, a team of scientists, led by Durham University, UK, have determined that bird migrations are likely to get longer, as a result of climate change.

This is the first ever study of the potential impacts of climate change on the breeding and winter ranges of migrant birds.

The scientists show that the marathon flights undertaken by birds to spring breeding grounds in Europe, are going to turn into even more epic journeys; the length of some migrations could increase by as much as 250 miles.

The research team looked at the current migration patterns of European Sylvia warblers, a group of birds that are common residents and visitors to Europe, like the Blackcap.

The scientists demonstrate evidence of potential breeding ranges shifting northwards in the future, while the wintering ranges remain stationary for many species.

The team used simulation models to see how climate change might affect warblers and found that climate change will have significant impacts, particularly on the projected migration distances for some of the long distance fliers.

Some 500 million birds are estimated to migrate to Europe and Asia from Africa; birds as small as 9 grams undertake the annual migration of 1,000s of miles between the two continents to find food and suitable climate.

Birds have to put on a large amount of weight as fat before migrating long distances. They even shrink the size of some of their internal organs to become more fuel efficient.

Some species must double their weight to have enough energy to undertake the huge journeys. The first of these migrants are now starting to reappear once again in the UK countryside.

According to team leader, Dr Stephen Willis of Durham University, birds face an increasing fight to survive.

“Most warblers come here in spring and summer time to take advantage of the surplus of insects, and leave for warmer climes in the autumn. From 2071 to 2100, nine out of the 17 species we looked at are projected to face longer migrations, particularly birds that cross the Sahara desert,” he said.

“Our findings show that marathon migrations for some birds are set to become even longer journeys,” he added.

According to Nathalie Doswald, a student on the Durham team, “The projected distances for migrations would require long and short distance fliers to increase their fuel loads by 9 per cent and 5 per cent of lean body mass respectively.”

“The predicted future temperature changes and the associated changes in habitat could have serious consequences for many species,” she added. (ANI)

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