91 Percent of Migratory Birds May be at Major Risk on Their Migrations

First Posted: Dec 03, 2015 06:27 PM EST

Migratory birds may be in deep trouble. A new study reveals that just 9 percent of migratory birds receive adequate protection across their entire ranges.

Migratory birds make major contributions to resource fluxes, biomass transfer, nutrient transport, predator-prey interactions, and food web structure across ecosystems. However, more than half of migratory birds across all major migratory routes have declined in number significantly over the past 30 years.

In order to examine the distribution of protected areas for migratory birds, researchers mapped out the migratory routes of 1,451 species worldwide. They found that 91 percent of migratory bird species have inadequate protected area coverage for at least one part of their migration cycle. That's in contrast to 55 percent off non-migratory species.

The scientists also found that for threatened migratory species, the situation is worse. Less than 3 percent of threatened migratory species have adequate protected area coverage across all parts of their migration cycle. The differences in protection levels vary from country to country, although those in North Africa and Asia have the least.

The researchers also found that the wealth of a nation was a poor indicator of the protection it offered migratory species. In fact, many Central American countries with low gross domestic product were found to meet targets for more than 75 percent of their migratory species.

The findings reveal that it's important to take steps now to safeguard the world's migratory birds. This will require a concentrated effort from various countries, and international mechanisms to establish protected areas.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

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