Apr. 2, 2013 — A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) looked at the vulnerability of 54 breeding bird species to climate change impacts occurring by the year 2050 in Arctic Alaska. The assessment found that two species, the gyrfalcon and common eider are likely to be "highly" vulnerable, while seven other species would be "moderately" vulnerable to anticipated impacts. Five species are likely to increase in number and benefit from a warming climate.
Arctic Alaska harbors some of the most important breeding and staging grounds for millions of birds -- many from around the world -- representing more than 90 species. A rise in mean annual temperatures of at least 3.1 degrees Celsius in northern
is expected by 2050, and will likely impact species in myriad ways. Alaska
The report, Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Breeding Birds in Arctic Alaska, co-authored by WCS Scientists Joe Liebezeit, Erika Rowland, Molly Cross and Steve Zack, details in-depth vulnerability assessments conducted on 54 species to help guide climate-informed wildlife management in the region. The project was aided by the participation of more than 80 scientists who are experts on the assessed species.
Results showed that along with the highly vulnerable gyrfalcon and common eider, seven other species were moderately vulnerable, including: brandt, Steller's eider, pomerine jaeger, yellow-billed loon, buff-breasted sandpiper, red phalarope and ruddy turnstone. Five species, including the savannah sparrow,
longspur, white-crowned sparrow, American tree-sparrow and common redpoll are
likely to increase in number, according to the assessments.
The authors note that the assessments calculated vulnerabilities looking exclusively at the impacts of climate change experienced by breeding birds in Arctic Alaska, and not in other parts of their range.
"The primary value of this assessment is to tease out the underlying factors that make species more or less vulnerable to climate change," said WCS Conservation Scientist and report co-author Joe Liebezeit. "Through this effort we can begin to prioritize subsequent management actions and identify data gaps. The results represent a starting point to help prioritize management actions and conservation planning efforts."