Most California Important Bird Areas will Protect Sensitive Bird Species from Climate Change

As questions remain as to how we can best help California birds prosper in a time of climate change, important new research from Audubon California may provide part of the answer. A new analysis of future climate models shows that most California Important Bird Areas – a network of sites identified by Audubon California as providing essential habitat – will protect sensitive bird species against climate change.

“Although climate change will inevitably result in some loss of bird populations, knowing ahead of time where birds will persist gives us a good idea of where to focus our conservation efforts,” said William Monahan, senior GIS scientist with Audubon California.

A fact sheet showing these findings is available on www.ca.audubon.org.

Audubon California has identified 145 Important Bird Areas within the state that provide more than 10 million acres of essential habitat for breeding, wintering and migrating birds. Part of an international process, these sites were nominated by local experts and selected according to rigid criteria.

Monahan and his colleagues identified 25 sensitive bird species that are present at these sites and analyzed their prospects using future climate models. Their results show that 16 of 25 of these species will persist at these sites through the year 2100. Moreover, 89 of the 145 sites will enable 50 percent or more of their sensitive species to persist. Researchers found that California’s most resilient areas are located in coastal regions and the Central Valley.

This is good news for birds such as the Northern Harrier, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, California Clapper Rail and a many other noteworthy birds that among California’s most sensitive species.

“We already knew that these sites were important to protect because they provided critical habitat for some of California’s most sensitive bird species,” said Andrea Jones, Audubon California’s Important Bird Areas program director. “Learning that they will also provide refuge for birds during the next 90 years of climate change only increases their conservation value.”

[Source: Audubon California press release]