Experts predict climate change will lead to significant turnover of bird species in Asia, including India, leading to either colonisation in new areas or may even result in their being locally extinct.

A new research initiative by the UK-based BirdLife International and Durham University emphasises the need to step up conservation activities to limit the impact of climate change on birds.

Bombay Natural History Society, a partner of BirdLife, is associated with conservation projects in India.

The findings highlight the need to conserve not just the protected areas, but also the other habitats, which are crucial for their survival in the region and in some local areas where birds thrive.

The report finds that climate change can threaten Asian bird survival and wants a holistic countryside-based conservation approach to ensure their habitats do not change.

The research examined the potential future distribution of species where suitable climate is likely to remain within protected areas and conservation sites, such as Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and the need to maintain suitable habitats outside protected areas.

This study was conducted for 370 Asian bird species whose conservation is a cause of concern, across the biodiversity hotspots of eastern Himalaya and lower Mekong River basin regions.

Stuart Butchart, Head of Science at BirdLife International said, "Overall, while these important sites will continue to sustain bird species of conservation concern, climate change will modify which species each site will be suitable for. We need to adapt our conservation management."

The countries studied include Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and parts of India and Nepal.

According to the study findings, survival of species will be dependent upon how conservation sites are managed and whether movement is possible from one site to another.

Projections show that at least 45 per cent and up to 88 per cent of the 370 species studied will experience decline of suitable habitats, leading to changing species composition in specific areas.

The report was published in journal Global Change Biology.

rishikumar.vundi@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 5, 2013)
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