Acknowledging that numerous bird species have expanded their ranges to higher latitudes and altitudes in response to the warming climate, researchers in Finland studied changes in bird populations and distributions over five decades. Habitat loss and fragmentation can hinder such range adjustments. The research shows that protected areas with high-quality habitats slowed the northern retreat of some species, and provided suitable new habitat for species expanding their ranges northward.
Understanding the ecological and biogeographical mechanisms underpinning species range shifts is fundamental for designing effective conservation strategies and adaptations to climate change.
The study looked at changes in abundance and distribution of 30 northern and 70 southern bird species inside and outside of conservation areas. Finnish conservation areas are mainly old-growth forest and peat lands, providing excellent habitat for many species. These areas are safe havens for northern birds, accommodating species whose abundance remains high compared to regions outside the conservation areas. Protected habitats also help certain southern species whose range is expanding northward into areas new to them.
The findings, published November 4, 2018, in Global Change Biology, note that protected areas serve not only as valuable habitat, but as carbon repositories, another important role in mitigating climate change.
Read the entire report here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.14461
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