Promoting healthy ecosystems to build resilience to climate change


BirdLife South Africa

BirdLife South Africa strives to conserve birds and their habitats. We work with people to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources. We are a registered non-profit, public benefit environmental organization and the only dedicated bird-conservation organisation in South Africa. We have 6 100 members in 40 bird clubs and branches throughout South Africa.

Climate change threatens to undermine BirdLife's mission to conserve wild birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, by working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. Climate change clearly poses new challenges to BirdLife’s main approaches to conserving species, Important Bird Areas and habitats. Biodiversity and climate change are closely interlinked: many habitats like forests and wetlands are important carbon sinks. Only diverse and healthy ecosystems can provide the essential services that people, animals and plants need to survive the expected environmental changes. Nature can protect us against extreme weather events, like floods, drought or erosion, if we do our part to conserve nature.

BirdLife has pulled together scientific information, policy analysis and practical experience that provides a comprehensive rationale for BirdLife to take action on climate change. The BirdLife Partnership has developed a shared position and programme of work to combat climate change. The position is, of necessity, complex and detailed. But its overall message is very simple: climate change is global in its causes and consequences and potentially disastrous for life on earth; we must act together and act now to mitigate against it and adapt to it.

Download BirdLife International's Position Paper on Climate Change here

Key Activities of BirdLife South Africa

•Recreational birding through 24 branches
•IBA Conservation Programme
•Environmental Education Programme
•Global Seabird Programme
•Guide Training Programme
•Wakkerstroom Site Programme
•Publication of Scientific Journal Ostrich
•Promoting activities: Birding Big Day and Festival of Birds

Recent Achievements

•Organised the International Ornithological Conference, attended by over 2,000 delegates
•Published the Important Bird Areas of Southern Africa, compiled by the Avian Demography Unit
•Established an IBA conservation programme as a participating member in an African NGO-government partnership for sustainable biodiversity action
•Set up a programme for the creation of environmental educational material for the new South African school syllabi
•Continued building on the Important Bird Areas programme and the Education for Sustainability project
•Established a new multi-purpose Wakkerstroom Centre in 1999, aimed at promoting ecotourism to the area
•Funding was secured for a programme to train people from poor communities to act as bird guides
•Acted as the host Partner for the Global Seabird Conservation Programme
•Hosted a successful Festival of Birds fair in Johannesburg

Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) – Birding with a purpose

What is a bird atlas and why have it? A bird atlas, firstly, is generally not a once-off exercise but is repeated on a regular basis, for instance, every 5 to 10 years. The main function of a bird atlas is to provide us with a “snapshot” of the changing environment we live in. Environmental change occurs in a number of ways, for instance habitat modification for agricultural use, global warming, commercial aforestation, and so on.

Birds and bird habitats are in a state of unprecedented change, especially as a result of alterations in land use and because of climate change, and we are consequently seeing significant alterations in range. Range expansions are easy to detect as is the case with the Hadeda`s incursion into the western Cape and Egyptian geese throughout the entire country, but range contractions are more difficult to measure and need systematic monitoring if we are to detect them and to make the appropriate conservation decisions. Most importantly, birds are a highly visible and well documented species group about which people feel passionate. They allow us a lens into changes affecting other kinds of biodiversity and provide us with an important tool when deciding on conservation priorities.

The bird atlas requires the collection of many records relating to the range and sometimes the abundance of birds over a large area. Because it requires the collection of so much information it needs the participation of thousands of people. Data is collected through the “citizen scientists” in the field, generally on a bird watching outing where the species seen or heard are recorded in a fixed way that is meaningful to the final output of the project. Usually the area that the data is collected in, and the time spent in the area is recorded. In the case of SABAP2, the area for data collection is named a “Pentad”, which is an area of 5 minutes of longitude by 5 minutes of latitude. The minimum time period that should be spent collecting data within the Pentad is 2 hours. These outlines are called the spatial (space) and temporal (time) resolutions respectively. BirdLife South Africa (BLSA) is again very privileged to partner on the SABAP2 project with the Animal Demography Unit and the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

We would like to encourage people and organisations such as farmers, conservation organisations both governmental and non-governmental, private game reserves, and most importantly, people from the majority of our population groups to participate. In conclusion, participation as a “citizen scientist” will allow birdwatchers to make a valuable contribution to the conservation of biodiversity in the Southern African region, and in this is well summarised in the statement “birding with a purpose”

To learn more, visit the SABAP2 website where all the software and information you will need to get started can be found. Alternatively contact Doug Harebottle on email or on +27 (0) 21 650 2330.

Download an article on the possible effects of climate change on the population ecology of blue cranes (Altwegg and Anderson, 2009)

Climate change pushing bird species 'towards extinction:' US

11 March 2010, : Online report version:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Climate change is pushing some bird species 'towards extinction,' US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar warned Thursday as a new report on the threats facing North American birds was released.

'For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses,' Salazar said. 'Now they are facing a new threat -- climate change -- that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction.'

Birds that depend upon the ocean for survival 'are among the most vulnerable birds on Earth to climate change,' warned the report put together by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in coordination with several environmental groups.

All 67 oceanic bird species, including albatrosses, petrels and puffins, are at particular risk because they produce few offspring each year and their habitats are most susceptible to climate change phenomena.

Species including the Laysan Albatross and the Bonin Petrel typically nest on very low-lying islands, which could disappear as sea levels rise.

Many Hawaiian birds, including the endangered Puaiohi and Akiapolaau, face multiple threats, including from mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species, as well as loss of habitat, the report warned.

But even less-threatened species, like the American oystercatcher -- a black and white bird with a long red bill -- the common nighthawk, and the northern pintail -- an ubiquitous type of duck, are likely to become 'of conservation concern' because of climate change.

In mountainous and Arctic regions 'increased temperatures will drastically alter surface water and vegetation,' meaning species like the White-tailed Ptarmigan and rosy-finches 'may disappear... as alpine tundra diminishes.'

'Birds are excellent indicators of the health of our environment, and right now they are telling us an important story about climate change,' said Kenneth Rosenberg, director of conservation science at Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology, a contributor to the report.

'Many species of conservation concern will face heightened threats, giving us an increased sense of urgency to protect and conserve vital bird habitat,' he added.

Salazar said the Department of the Interior was working to develop practical strategies to manage the effects of climate change in eight regions and has set up Climate Science Centers in each region to coordinate and lead those efforts.

Click the image to enlarge: Kingfisher (Image: Andre Botha)
Kingfisher (Image: Andre Botha)
Click the image to enlarge: Grey crowned crane (Image: Mike Jordan)
Grey crowned crane (Image: Mike Jordan)
Click the image to enlarge: Barns in a box (Image : Hayley Komen)
Barns in a box (Image : Hayley Komen)
Click the image to enlarge: BirdLife South Africa
BirdLife South Africa
Click the image to enlarge:
Posted: 12/8/2010 (11:34:00 AM)

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