Climate Change and Birds
We know that climate change is a real and profound threat to people and wildlife around the globe. It is no longer a matter of speculation among the scientific community, and their efforts to educate the rest of us seem to be working as the most recent Gallup Poll in 2014 shows half of Americans worry about it a fair amount or a great deal. We think more of us will care about the effects of climate change when we recognize how much it will impact our lives, and the lives of our fellow creatures.
Birds are highly vulnerable, despite their mobility, as their food and habitat cannot move as quickly as they can. Changes in temperature and precipitation are altering ecosystems around the world (drier, wetter, warmer or colder) and though we can’t predict precisely what will happen, we know that dramatic disruptions are in store if current trends continue. “Disruptions” to some will mean extinction.
Some places, and some birds, will be relatively resilient in the face of climate change. Other places, and other birds, are much more fragile. It turns out that the massive Pacific Ocean at our doorstep provides a steadying influence on our regional climate, as it is slower to change temperatures, and therefore makes the Northwest a climate refuge of sorts. If we protect our local habitats, including the habitat in our own backyards, we can help provide a stronghold for many birds that they may not have in other regions.
There are many sources for you to learn more about climate change and what you can do to reduce and mitigate the effects going forward. The National Audubon Society has released a new Climate Report highlighting the threats to birds from climate change. The National Climate Assessment is by far the most comprehensive and important analysis of how climate change will impact different parts of the country, and in what ways. In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the Fifth Assessment Report on the status of climate change globally. Together, these and many other reports and studies paint the same picture: the climate is changing, measurably and even rapidly, and the effects will be far reaching for people, and every creature and organism on earth.
For decades Seattle Audubon has worked at the forefront of education, science, habitat and conservation issues that address climate change from several angles. Here are a few you should know about:
||Education: Every year our free education programs in public schools teach students the fundamentals of science, ecology and climate. Over 800 elementary students a year receive education through our Finding Urban Nature program. We always need more volunteers!
|| Science: Seattle Audubon has a tremendous history of doing citizen science around Seattle and the Puget Sound region. Long term data sets like these are essential for tracking and forecasting trends related to climate and habitat changes. Two unique programs in particular are at the forefront of providing critical data that is mined for understanding trends in bird populations.
Neighborhood Bird Project: Since 1994 we have engaged our volunteers to count birds around King County and in Seattle City Parks. Once a month, year-round, hundreds of volunteers are out identifying birds in the same important locations. This data set provides wonderful information for analysis of climate and other impacts and it only gets more vital as each month passes and more data is collected.
Puget Sound Seabird Survey: This unique and essential program engages volunteers to count seabirds around Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Since 2007, we have surveyed seabirds at the same locations, using the same protocols, and have now assembled a useful data set for trend analysis. Seabirds and their population trends are especially useful to understanding ocean conditions, and in the event of a dreaded oil spill, these data will be the best source of knowing what is at risk.
Conservation: We actively participate on many urban and regional environmental issues, helping to shape climate change priorities in Seattle and Washington.
Reforesting Seattle: Our Canopy Connections program has pointed a magnifying glass on the vastly diminished tree canopy in Seattle. We have developed a city-wide tree map identifying priority areas for reforestation in order to meet the City’s goal of 30% canopy by 2037. Our online tree map also identifies the amount of carbon sequestered with the planting of each tree.
Bird-friendly Backyards: Creating gardens that support and attract wildlife will help create resiliency in an altered climate future. We provide resources for homeowners to increase their backyard urban bird diversity and encourage species survival. Simply adding trees can help reduce climate impacts, and a rain garden can reduce urban flooding.
Fighting for Forests: We have a long legacy fighting to protect the mature and old-growth forests critical to the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl. These forest ecosystems are important carbon sinks that must be grown and preserved into the future.
Puget Sound: The second largest estuary in the world is exposed to hundreds of oil spills totaling thousands of gallons of oil annually. We have partnered with other Washington Audubon chapters in opposition to any new transport of fossil fuels through this already highly contaminated body of water. This is essential to protect bird habitat in the face of climate change.
Responsible Renewable Energy: Balancing the need for renewable energy development with significant impacts to birds is essential to ensuring the longevity of Pacific Flyway species. We analyze renewable energy on a project by project basis to determine if siting is appropriate and ensure threats are avoided, minimized, and mitigated for.
How You Can Help
Here are some ways you can engage on climate change in the Seattle and Puget Sound Region:
Support Governor Inslee's Climate Pollution Accountability Act (CPAA).
Volunteer with Seattle Audubon to teach kids about the climate change, participate in bird surveys, and facilitate Canopy Connections to help reforest Seattle.
Take steps to create your own bird-friendly backyard.
Support the efforts of the Seattle Audubon Society through contributions to our work.
Receive action alerts. Support our fight to protect mature- and old-growth forests for the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl, and engage on other climate related conservation issues. Contact the Conservation Manager for more information.
!! Contact your elected officials in support of expected legislation in the State of Washington in 2015. Find contact information for your state senators and representatives, federal senators and representatives, and Governor Jay Inslee here.