The Going Is Getting Tougher for World's Migratory Birds

Study finds only 9% have adequate protection along their routes
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2015 6:40 PM CST
The Far Eastern curlew, which migrates from Siberia to Australia and New Zealand, is losing areas it uses for resting and feeding to urban, industrial, and agricultural expansion.   (Dirk Hovorka/University of Queensland)

(Newser) – Migrating birds are impressive—one species is known to travel more than 6,800 miles in a single flight—but they're no match for human development, the Los Angeles Times reports. That's why researchers behind a study published Friday in Science say the world needs to band together to save them. Researchers found only 9% of the 1,451 bird species studied had enough protected areas along their migration routes to provide adequate spots to rest, eat, and breed. "This sort of analysis is a wake-up call for us to really do a much better [job of] understanding where birds are," one expert tells the Times. The loss of habitat is putting many migrating birds at risk of extinction, according to a press release. Which is bad because—as the Times notes—these birds are important to everything from pollination to pest control.

More than half of migratory bird species have experienced declining numbers in the past three decades, the Times reports. The problem is the lack of global cooperation in protecting these birds. For example, Germany has protected areas for more than 98% of its migratory bird species, but less than 13% of those species have adequate protection along their entire route, which can span continents and cross oceans. "It won't matter what we do in Australia or in Europe if these birds are losing their habitat somewhere else—they will still perish," the study's co-author, Dr. Richard Fuller, says in the press release. "We need to work together far more effectively round the world if we want our migratory birds to survive into the future." (Read more birds stories.)

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