Saturday, 28 March 2009

Number 3) Protecting Wildlife from Climate Change

I am hopeful that one of the things this Administration will prioritise is a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions to help us halt the onset of global climate change. BUT, the changing climate has already begun to have a serious impact on wildlife and plant species and sadly we now have no choice but to adapt to these changes.

The warming temperatures, for example, have caused caterpillars to be born weeks earlier in the year than previously. That may not sound so bad, but baby birds rely on them as their main source of food. Some bird species are starting to experience mass starvation of thier chicks, who are now being born weeks after the caterpillars on which have passed their peak.

In fact, birds generally appear to be in serious trouble:

The May, 2008, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessment concluded that “climate change—and even some attempts to tackle it—are pushing one in eight species of birds towards extinction.” In the past year alone, 26 of the 1,226 species on their “Red List” of threatened bird species became more endangered, while only 2 species improved in status...

In the United States bird populations have also shrunk, and nearly a third of the bird species living in the eastern Midwest and Great Lakes areas could be lost. (Emphasis mine)

The Department of the Interior has for decades been responsible for managing public lands and ensuring the preservation of wildlife. However, the methods they use for species conservation are likely to need a major overhaul in light of the changing patterns in nature. And you don't have to be an animal lover to be concerned about this - mass species extinction can lead to devastating consequences for human populations. For instance, without birds to contain them, insect populations can swell, leading to crop blight. Fish extinctions could destroy the fishing industry, and with it countless local economies that rely on it.

To prevent these potentially costly and devastating outcomes, we need to make a modest investment in rejigging our land management in line with visible and measurable impact that climate change is having on the landscape today (as well as preparing for the likely future). This budget increases the funding for such work by $140 Million, $40 Million of which will be shared with the states to support their local conservation efforts. It also grants $10 Million to North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) activities to acquire, restore, or protect wetlands used by migratory waterfowl and other birds

Money well spent.

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