One in two bird species in decline, one in eight at risk of extinction

The alarm launched by the ‘State or the world birds’ report: “Birds inform us about the health of our natural environment: we ignore their messages at our own peril”

Nearly half of the world’s wild bird species are in decline, and one in eight are threatened with extinction due to the expansion and intensification of agriculture, deforestation and climate change. The new edition of “State of the world birds”, the most important report in the world which in the new edition examined 11 thousand species of birds. Published every four years by BirdLife International, the report summarizes what birds tell us about the state of nature, the pressures exerted on it, existing and necessary solutions.

Currently, nearly half of the world’s bird species are in decline while only 6% is on the rise. Although data on long-term trends in bird populations are more comprehensive for Europe and North America, it is increasingly evident that decline is occurring worldwide, from forest and wetland species in Japan to raptors in Kenya.

The causes

The expansion and intensification of agriculture are the main threat to the world’s birds and affect 73% of all threatened species. The increase in mechanization, the use of agrochemicals and the conversion of grassland to cropland have caused a 57% decline in agricultural habitat birds in Europe since 1980. In Ethiopia, since 2007, the loss of meadows and pastures at favor of agricultural land has caused an 80% decrease in the number of Libyan larks, an endemic species found nowhere else on the planet.

Unsustainable logging and forest management are also a significant problem: the loss of more than 7 million hectares of forest each year impacts half of all threatened bird species. Another sizable threat comes from climate change, which is already showing devastating impacts on the world’s birds, with 34% of threatened species already affected, and a very fast escalation trend.

Overall, the report concludes that one of the most important actions to be taken is the conservation, conservation and effective management of the most critical sites for birds and biodiversity. With this in mind, the meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Cbd Cop 15), which will be held at the end of this year, will be a crucial moment for birds and for all of nature, as governments will come together to finalize and adopt the Global Biodiversity Framework.

“Birds inform us about the health of our natural environment: we ignore their messages at our peril – says Patricia Zurita, general manager of BirdLife International – Many parts of the world are already experiencing fires, droughts, heat waves and extreme floods,” as human-transformed ecosystems struggle to adapt to climate change. While the Covid pandemic and the global cost of living crisis have undoubtedly diverted attention from the environmental agenda, global society must remain focused on the biodiversity crisis. “

Possible solutions

State of the World’s Birds 2022 also shows the solutions needed to address the biodiversity crisis, many of which have been put in place around the world. Safeguarding and protecting sites that are important to nature, restoring damaged ecosystems and tackling major threats to birds and biodiversity are all critical. One of the most urgent actions is the conservation, safeguarding and effective management of the most critical sites for birds and biodiversity: the Areas of Importance for Birds and Biodiversity (IBA), over 13,600 of which have been identified by BirdLife International.

IBAs form the core of a wider network of key areas for biodiversity and are increasingly used for the designation of protected areas. They will be particularly important to ensure that efforts to expand protected areas to cover 30% of the land and seas – as also envisaged by the European Biodiversity Strategy – are targeted to the most important places.

Despite the desperate state of the natural world, many actions taken have proved effective and have made it possible to save species and recover nature. Since 2013, 726 globally threatened bird species have directly benefited from BirdLife’s partnership actions and over 450 Areas of Importance for Birds and Biodiversity (IBA) have been designated as protected areas thanks to advocacy efforts from BirdLife Partners.

Recent examples are the designation of the North Atlantic Current basin and the Evlanov Sea (Naces) as a Marine Protected Area (Amp) in October 2021. It covers an area the size of France and is home to up to five million seabirds of 21 different species. It is the first Marine Protected Area on the high seas identified on the basis of survey data. Another example is the Mar Chiquita Lagoon, an Iba in Argentina that is home to more than half a million migratory water birds, including the (vulnerable) Andean flamingo, and which was protected as Ansenuza National Park in 2022. after a long work by Aves Argentinas (BirdLife partner).

“The birds show that we are experiencing an extinction crisis, with at least 187 species confirmed or suspected to have gone extinct since 1500 – says Stuart Butchart, lead researcher at BirdLife International – There’s no denying the situation is dire, but we know how to reverse this. Our research shows that between 21 and 32 bird species would have gone extinct by 1993 without conservation efforts undertaken to save them. Species such as the California condor, the hermit ibis and the black knight would no longer exist. let’s give nature a chance, it can recover “.