Report reveals climate change costs for Australian birds

14-May-2013

Stephen Garnett
CDU’s Professor Stephen Garnett lead-authored a report revealing the cost of saving Australia’s bird species from climate change is an estimated AU$18.8 million a year over the next 50 years

The cost of saving Australia’s bird species from climate change is estimated at AU$18.8 million a year over the next 50 years, a report released yesterday reveals.

Charles Darwin University’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods Professor Stephen Garnett lead-authored a report detailing the nation’s bird conservation costs, which is the first to look at all birds for an entire continent.

Professor Garnett said the bird species of the Northern Territory’s Tiwi Islands were at particular risk of habitat degradation due to climate change, with less rainfall and higher temperatures expected in the region by 2085.

“Birds confined to Cape York Peninsula in the Top End of the Northern Territory, King Island and southern South Australia are also likely to experience substantial changes to rainfall, temperature and food availability due to climate change,” Professor Garnett said.

“We also found that 16 marine bird species are likely to have less food available near the islands where they breed, and 55 land-based species are likely to be exposed to more frequent or intense fires caused by climate change.

“Rainforests birds of Cape York Peninsula are likely to be the most vulnerable to climate-related challenge.”

The report also finds that marine birds nesting on Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, the Great Barrier Reef and the Houtman Abrolhos off Western Australia will be exposed to the greatest changes to the marine environment.

Land birds from small islands were most likely to be exposed and sensitive to climate change, followed by marine and shoreline bird species.

“Immediate action is needed to identify refuges within the landscapes of highly exposed bird species if we hope to slow or stop their population decline,” Professor Garnett said.

“The short-term costs are monitoring and ongoing species management but refuge management and captive breeding may eventually be needed should all other approaches to conservation in the wild fail, and will be much more expensive.

“A few species likely to be threatened with extinction may be saved by moving birds to new habitats.

“In most cases doing more of what we do at the moment, such as fire management, weed and feral animal control and, for marine birds, controls on fishing, will be the best approach to helping Australian birds cope with climate change.”

The report, entitled “Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Australian Birds”, was funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and carried out in conjunction with James Cook University, BirdLife Australia, BirdLife International and CSIRO.

Visit W: www.nccarf.edu.au/publications/adaptation-strategies-australian-birds to view a copy of the report.

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