BirdLife Malta yesterday presented a Europe-wide study on climate change which predicts that breeding ranges could be reduced in size by a fifth by the end of the century due to global warming.
The study also predicts that climate change is likely to shift breeding ranges of European bird species by nearly 550km.
The forecasts were taken from a scientific publication the bird conservation group launched together with its European partners. Entitled “A climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds”, the study has used climate change projections developed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and bases its forecasts on a likely 3.3 degrees Celcius increase in average global temperature above pre-industrial levels.
BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director Tolga Temuge explained that, in the course of the 21st Century the changing climatic conditions will force most species to move into new areas, while at the same time losing much of their former range. For many species this will prove difficult, and combined with other threats it will increase their risk of extinction in Europe.
Dr Andre Raine, BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager, added that “due to reasons such as direct human persecution and habitat loss, Malta has relatively few breeding bird species. However, Malta is internationally important for its breeding seabird colonies, and we currently have 10% of the world’s population of Yelkouan Shearwater and the largest population of European Storm-petrels in the Mediterranean. It is particularly alarming to note that the models used by the Atlas predict that we may lose both of these species by the end of this century unless the predicted climate change is averted.”
Asked whether this shift may have an impact on humans, Temuge explained that such drastic shifts would seriously affect the entire eco-system, with a possible increase in insect population, and therefore an increased chance of spread of disease. “In any case, the issue is complex and BirdLife deals with birds,” he said.
“It is important to point fingers at the sources of the problem,” Temuge added. “It is our dependency on Hydrocarbons that is causing climate change, and although Malta’s contribution to CO2 emissions may be insignificant it is time we started investing in energy efficiency and renewable sources, such as solar and wind.”