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U.S. parks may become more vital to birds as climate changes

Cara J

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National parks preserve habitat for hundreds of avian species in the United States. Researchers anticipate these protected areas will host even more extensive bird communities as climate change keeps transforming the landscape. “Climate change is a big driver in bird species assemblages in national parks,” said Joanna Wu, lead author on the study published in PLOS ONE. “National parks will be increasingly critical sanctuaries for birds seeking a suitable climate.” A National Audubon Society biologist, Wu and her colleagues modeled how 513 bird species would alter their distributions in 274 national parks throughout the country if atmospheric greenhouse gases persist into the middle of the century. They relied on the North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and considered possible changes in temperature and precipitation using observations from the early 2000s. “One-quarter of birds in America’s national parks could be different by 2050 if carbon emissions continue at the current pace,” Wu said, with parks at higher latitudes in the Northeast and Midwest experiencing the most turnover. “As birds move to track the climate, parks may gain species along with all the ecological interactions, habitat availability and other complications that come with that,” she said. “In [...]

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