Charles Darwin University
enews home

Book urges action to save Australian bird species

Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks and Professor Stephen Garnett at the book launch Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks and Professor Stephen Garnett at the book launch

Australians must prepare now if we are to save all our birds as the climate changes.

That is the message that emerges from a new book edited by Charles Darwin University researchers Professor Stephen Garnett and Dr Don Franklin, entitled “Climate Change Adaption Plan for Australian Birds”.

The book, published by CSIRO, describes the state of knowledge about climate change and Australian birds, detailing costed plans for those most vulnerable.

“We are just starting to see the effects of climate change on Australian birds, but we can expect an acceleration over coming decades,” Professor Garnett said. “This book is to help us prepare.”

The research draws on some 16 million records on 1200 bird species and subspecies, the largest collection of bird records ever assembled. Models of future climates were then created for every bird to compare the climate where they occur today and that are likely to occur there in the future, based on the very latest predictions.

“Fortunately not all birds will be exposed to major climate change in the next 50 years,” Professor Garnett said. “Many have demonstrated a pretty wide tolerance for our unpredictable climate so should be able to cope.”

For many birds, however, the climate where they currently live may be quite different in the future – particularly places such as the Tiwi Islands, the Top End and Cape York Peninsula.

“The first step is to make sure we know what is happening with our most vulnerable birds,” Professor Garnett said. “If monitoring is showing that birds are not coping, we need to take further action.”

He said the types of action recommended included moving birds to new sites and perhaps, if all else failed, even keeping birds in zoos.

“The cost for the 60 most vulnerable species is estimated at about $20 million a year for the next 50 years,” he said. “Ideally most birds are managed where they currently live but some may need more intensive management.”

Professor Garnett said one of the main messages was that there was something that could be done to help birds cope with climate change.

“We want to show what can be done to help birds adapt to the new climate we have created. We are a long way off despair and with the right sort of investment into biodiversity conservation we do not need to lose anything, provided we are prepared.”

The research was funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and is the result of a collaboration between the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University, BirdLife Australia, BirdLife International, James Cook University and CSIRO.

The book is available for purchase at CDU bookshop or direct from CSIRO.