The Rise and Fall of the Bird Reich
Ten percent of all birds could go extinct by 2100
By the end of the century, 10 percent of all extant bird species may be extinct, with another 15 percent on the brink, according to a comprehensive new study. The analysis, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, considered the fate of 9,787 living bird species, modeling the effects of habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change. The grim 10 percent figure is actually a conservative estimate; the study’s worst-case scenario bumps the number up to about 17 percent, or one in six species. Birds, the study authors stress, play unique roles in ecosystems and their loss can have unexpected and devastating effects on humans, as when the sharp decline of vulture species in India led to an increase in feral dogs and rats (feeding on carcasses), which in turn yielded 30,000 cases of rabies in 1997 alone. “Birds are excellent environmental indicators,” said Stuart Butchart of Birdlife International, “and what they are telling us is that there is a fundamental malaise in the way we treat our environment.”
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