Conservation Crossing Borders

Climate change is an issue that has been discussed the world over and is of great concern. As climates begin to shift and weather patterns begin to change, so does nature. Wildlife are forced to adapt to conditions they are not used to, over and above the fact that their habitats are being encroached on. The first wildlife to have shown signs of adapting are birds. Migratory bird patterns have diversified and as the need grows, birds are moving to areas that are best suited to their survival, causing a cry out for cross border conservation efforts.

A team of researchers decided to conduct a study concentrating on the birds of Africa. The team consisted of Dr. Stephen Willis (School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences of the Durham University), as well as Professor Brian Huntley from the same department. They considered where the birds are located at present and how they would move due to climate change. Eight hundred and three Important Bird Areas (IBAs) were looked at.

Monitoring the birds will be the first way to detect signs of the effects of climate change, as they would be the first to move. The researchers have therefore written a guideline to governments on how to deal with the reshuffling of wildlife should this occur as predicted. According to their studies, at least one third of the Important Bird Areas will experience a noticeable change, as shrinking habitats will force birds to find more suitable areas for food supply. During their research project, the researchers were also able to identify areas that are not currently under protection but could become potential habitats for the birds.

Dr. Stephen Willis commented: “The bird map of Africa is set to change dramatically and we need conservation policies that see the bigger picture.” He went on to say: “There are large areas of Africa lacking protected status and many of these areas are predicted to be critically important for bird conservation in the future. We need to be ready to protect remnant populations of birds while also preparing for new colonists.” As co-author of the guideline paper he stressed the importance of cross border conservation, “We need to improve monitoring, communication and co-operation to make protected areas work across borders. Conservationists and policy makers will have to work together in new ways as networks become increasingly important in protecting species.”