Migratory species face disaster from climate change, UN-backed report warns

24 June 2010 – Migratory species face disaster from the effects of climate change unless urgent action is taken, according to the preliminary findings of a forthcoming United Nations-backed report.

“Increasing temperatures, changes in precipitation, sea level rise, ocean acidification, changes in ocean currents and extreme weather events will all affect migratory species populations,” said Aylin McNamara, who led the research project at the Zoological Society of London.

“It's hard to see how any of these species will be able to survive” under the current “business as usual” approach to controlling greenhouse emissions, she said today. “I'm afraid that's how serious the situation is.”

International efforts for species conservation across national borders and to mitigate climate change were imperative, Ms. McNamara added. “These vulnerability assessments show us the likely order in which these species will become extinct” if such action is not taken.

The research, conducted in support of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), shows that even subtle changes in environmental conditions caused by climate change could have catastrophic consequences for animals that migrate.

Loggerhead turtles, for example, face the loss of suitable beaches for nesting due to sea-level rise, while a rise in temperature could cause the entire male population of a species to be eradicated. Green turtles, hawksbill turtles and leatherback turtles are also at high risk from climate change, along with the blue whale, West African manatee and giant catfish.

“Migratory species are particularly threatened by climate change as they depend on different habitats to breed, feed and rest,” the Executive Secretary of the Convention’s Secretariat, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, said.

“The findings from the report will facilitate the Convention's response to assist migratory species in adapting to climate change at a global level.”


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