Asia has sharpest declines in bird populations

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    Martin W

      Sobering article from Earth Policy Institute, EMPTY SKIES: World’s Birds at Risk says:

      Worldwide, some 1,212 of 9,775 bird species—one out of every eight—are threatened with extinction. Destruction and degradation of habitat is the number one danger, threatening 87 percent of these vulnerable birds.

      The sharpest declines in avian populations in recent years have come in Asia, particularly in Borneo and Sumatra, where lowland moist tropical forests are disappearing at an astonishing rate. By 2000, some 40 percent of Indonesia’s forests had been cleared. Now three out of every four bird species that depend on Sumatra’s lowland forest are on the verge of extinction. In addition to the loss of forests due to logging for lumber, the increasing demand for palm oil—recently prized as a biofuel—has raised pressure to convert natural forests to palm plantations. Without a rapid reversal of deforestation trends, all the lowland forest could be lost within a decade. Overall, some 118 of Indonesia’s bird species, including several endemic parrots and cockatoos, are threatened with extinction—the highest number of any country.

      Pollution poses an additional risk, affecting 12 percent of the threatened bird species. In India, Gyps vulture populations have plummeted by 95 percent in less than a decade, many poisoned by medicine used to treat the livestock they feed on.

      Even with continued habitat protection, once wildlife populations drop dramatically, a rebound is far from guaranteed. And without stabilizing climate and human numbers, putting fences around all the parks in the world will not be enough to protect threatened species.
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