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Birds reveal cost of climate change


08:56, May 15, 2013

SYDNEY, May 14 (Xinhua) -- The cost of saving Australia's birds from climate change is estimated at 18.7 million U.S. dollars a year, according to a report released Tuesday.

The study looks at Australian birds that are likely to face strong challenges or extinction from climate change, and recommends actions to secure vulnerable species for the future. "Climate change will affect a very wide range of Australian birds, and for the first time we are beginning to understand which ones are most likely to be at risk," said Glenn Ehmke, senior researcher at BirdLife Australia and co-author of the report.

"Some common birds may actually benefit as their preferred conditions expand with climate change, but birds with small geographic ranges and those that are already threatened are especially vulnerable,"said Ehmke.

The researchers found that 101 Australian terrestrial and inland water birds are likely to be extinct by 2085.

A further 16 marine birds are predicted to be at least 10 percent less productive than today, and 55 land birds are likely to face more frequent or intense fires. "The impacts of climate change on birds that live on islands -- Lord Lowe, Norfolk, Kangaroo Island, King Island, and many islands in the Great Barrier Reef -- are especially concerning,"said Ehmke.

Birds confined to specific areas such as the Cape York Peninsula, Wet Tropics, the Top End, arid zone, King Island and southern parts of South Australia were identified as the most likely to lose climate "space" due to significant changes in rainfall, temperature and food availability.

Samantha Vine, head of Conservation at BirdLife Australia, said the best way to help Australian birds cope with climate change is to build the resilience of populations by addressing existing threats through fire management, fishing regulations and weed and feral animal control. "The most urgent ongoing action identified by the report is monitoring, with support for the Atlas of Australian Birds seen as a particularly cost-effective investment," said Vine.

The cost of managing the 396 most-at-risk birds in Australia is estimated at 18.7 million U.S. dollars per year -- 47,500 U.S. dollars per year for each taxon. The biggest ongoing costs are monitoring and direct species management. "Should we fail to act to protect these species in the wild soon, more intensive action, such as captive breeding, may be needed and these will be much more expensive. If we do nothing, many will simply slip away and be lost forever," Vine said.

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