Migratory birds may be in trouble because of increasing habitat destruction that has compromised the birds’ stopover points and wintering locations, specifically in Central Asia, North Africa, and the coast of East Asia, the researchers say.
In the study – published December 3 in the scientific journal Science – the researchers looked at the migratory routes of more than 1,451 bird species, including their wintering locations and stopover points. They found that for about 91 percent of the species the migratory routes usually overlap areas that are not safeguarded.
Researchers say that restrictions of development should be taken in the areas that are frequented by migratory birds to make sure that the species will survive in the long-run.
Dr. Richard Fuller, an associate professor at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and researcher at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), said that in their long journeys, migratory birds depend on intact series of habitats where they can rest and feed. Major declines or even the extinction of the species may occur if only one of the habitats is destroyed, Dr. Fuller, added.
Across the globe several international treaties were made to protect migratory bird species. In 1916, the United States and Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada) signed the Migratory Bird Treaty. Other similar international treaties have been made with Russia (1976), Japan (1972), and Mexico (1936).
On the other side of the spectrum, conservation efforts are not as common in countries from Central Asia, the cost of East Asia, and in North Africa, which is why habitat destruction is most prevalent in these areas. In those countries, the areas that are indeed safeguarded from development do not overlap enough to create a route for migratory birds, while most areas are not protected at all.
Dr. Claire Runge, a conservation scientist who completed her PhD with the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), University of Queensland, Australia, said that safe wintering spots and stopover points are crucial for the birds’ survival.
According to Dr. Runge, the bar-tailed godwit – large wader in the family Scolopacidae – may be at serious risk in the future. The bar-tailed godwit migrate from the Arctic to New Zealand and Australia, and along their route the birds stop at sites in South Korea, North Korean and China. A lot of these sites have been destroyed because of industrial, urban, and agricultural expansion, Dr. Runge added.
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