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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Female Northern

Female Northern Cardinal — Photo: Brandon Holden Forests and Climate Change Climate change is global in its causes and consequences may be the greatest challenge to face man. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and clear; climate change is a then stored in trees which allows them to act as carbon sinks. The stark reality. Human activity is largely responsible for climate change capacity of this carbon sink is massive, as forests worldwide currently and it presents very serious risks for people and biodiversity worldwide. store more than an estimated one trillion tons of carbon. This is twice These activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, are rapidly the CO 2 found in the atmosphere. The maintenance and conservation increasing levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, causing of healthy forests becomes increasingly important in the face of climate the atmosphere to heat up. change. When you harvest, you release CO 2 through disturbance of the Although the Earth’s climate has changed repeatedly in the past, soil, and decomposition of leaves and slash. Careful management can the current situation is different. Human activity is largely responsible neutralize the effect of this released CO 2 . Forest operations that for the changes we are experiencing, the scale of impact is greater than maintain vigorous, fast growing, healthy trees will effectively increase has been experienced for hundreds of thousands of years, and these carbon sequestration rates. Careful management practices that reduce changes are happening at an unprecedented rate. By the end of this damage to remaining trees, reduce logging waste, implement soil century, climate change impacts may become the leading direct cause conservation practices, and produce solid wood products, ensure that of biodiversity loss. you conserve a large fraction of carbon. Habitat conservation and We know that the changes biodiversity faces due to climate change appropriate management, particularly restoration, can play a crucial will be substantial and wide reaching in terms of scale and speed. role in sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, we cannot predict with certainty how or when individual When you clear forests for other uses such as agriculture or housing, species will respond to climate change, or how ecosystems will change. you release huge quantities of CO 2 to the atmosphere. Through The effects of climate change include increased extreme weather (heavy planting and restoration work, you can increase the amount of fast rainfall, wind events, severe winter storms, and droughts), the retreat of growing forests on your landscape, which have a greater capacity to mountain glaciers, the thawing of permafrost, and lengthening of withdraw carbon from the atmosphere. Your goal to practice good growing seasons. Egg laying, flowering, and spawning are occurring forestry to maintain healthy forests on the landscape, and increase earlier for many species, in some cases disrupting delicate cycles that forest cover, will result in an increased capacity to store carbon in trees, ensure that insects and other food are available for young animals. soils, and forest floors. Many species will show changes in abundance, and experience shifts in their ranges in order to survive, with considerably more losers than winners expected. Additional consequences may include spread of disease, alien invasive species, and pest populations, changes to vegetation communities and disturbance regimes, and ultimately, the increased risk of extinction for a number of vulnerable species. Forests play a crucial role in mediating the effects of climate change at a global scale. Elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) in the atmosphere cause temperatures near the surface of the earth to rise (the greenhouse effect). Yet, forests provide an important service, in terms of carbon sequestration by removing CO 2 from the air and releasing oxygen, for us to breathe. This carbon is Typical big city traffic in southern Ontario — Photo: Microsoft 32 The Fragmented Forest

Northern Cardinal — Photo: Daniel Cadieux Birds and Climate Change The impact of climate change on birds in North America is already evident for a number of species. Nearly 60 percent of the 305 species found in North America in winter are on the move, shifting their ranges northward by an average of 56 km. Elevated spring temperatures have led to earlier egg laying (approximately 6.6 days earlier per decade) and earlier spring migration (nearly a third of migrants are arriving earlier in Canada). Species incapable of synchronizing migration with breeding ground resource availability are at a severe disadvantage. Latecomers may not have sufficient food resources throughout the breeding cycle and they may be too late to find a suitable nest. Longer summers and warmer winters are postponing fall migration (half of migrating songbirds studied) and have even led to the complete cessation of migration in some species (e.g., Canada Geese in southern Ontario). In Ontario, overall warming effects over the past 20 years have resulted in northward range expansions and/or increased densities at the edge of their range for a variety of species (e.g., Tufted Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, and Red-bellied Woodpecker). Climate change may be partially responsible for the decline of birds that feed on flying insects (aerial insectivores). This includes Whip-poor-wills, nighthawks, swifts, swallows, martins, and flycatchers. They have demonstrated alarming declines, particularly in eastern Canada, including many forest-dwelling species common to agricultural landscapes like Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, and Great Crested Flycatcher. It is believed that the overall abundance of aerial insects is declining, and/or that shifts are occurring in their distribution or peak timing of seasonal emergence because of climate change. Many kinds of flying insects have an aquatic stage that is very sensitive to changes in the aquatic environment. Marked increases in UV radiation and changes in water temperature through climate change can reduce their populations. Most insects are also sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation extremes. As such, short-term disturbances in climate could affect seasonal timing of insect availability. If avian life stages, such as feeding young, become mismatched with insect availability than these aerial insectivore bird populations are likely to decline. Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world. Rachel Carson Flock of Canada Geese in winter — Photo: Terry Sohl Great Crested Flycatcher — Photo: Robert McCaw The Fragmented Forest 33

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