Global warming could change bird population of Czech Republic and much of continent

Photo: Guido Gerding, Creative Commons 3.0

The bird populations of many European states could change drastically by the end of this century, warns a freshly released study entitled “A Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds”. In fact, global warming could cause the average European bird species to move over 500 km north-east. Here in the Czech Republic, swans for instance could become a real rarity by the year 2100, while hundreds of bird species currently centred on the Mediterranean could begin appearing in this part of the world. I discussed the implications of the new report with Petr Voříšek from the Czech Society for Ornithology.

Photo: J. M. Garg, Creative Commons 3.0
“Generally we suppose the boreal species, species typical for the boreal, northern European forests, the kind of mountain forests which occur in the Czech Republic, will be most affected. They will probably disappear or reduce their range, so they could disappear from the Czech Republic.

“On the other hand, a thousand European species with the centre of their range in the Mediterranean could spread their range and we could have new species in the Czech Republic.”

This may sound like a stupid question, but is it necessarily a bad thing that in the future there could be different breeds of birds in the Czech Republic? Some would leave, others would come – would you regard that as a bad thing?

Photo: Ján Svetlík, Creative Commons 2.0
“That’s a good question (laughs). In fact, yeah, from the point of view one country, it really doesn’t matter if we have one species or another one. One disappears and another one arrives. We shouldn’t look at the issue of climate change and the effect of climate change on birds from the point of view of one tiny country like the Czech Republic.

“We should have a wider point of view, a continental point of view. And at a European scale we can see that northern and southern species will be most affected. Especially the northern species, because some of them won’t have a chance to move further north. There’ll be no suitable habitat for them.”

Here in the Czech Republic is there anything at all practical that the authorities can do to try to keep the birds which are currently here in this country?

Photo: Guido Gerding, Creative Commons 3.0
“Yes, one thing which applies to all countries is to try to keep emission scenarios as low as possible, to make climate change as little problematic as possible. But in any case we won’t avoid climate change, that’s clear.

“So then authorities could and should strengthen the network of protected areas, because species should be prepared for climate change, species should have viable populations in order to be able to move if necessary, to find new areas to live.

“And also they should reduce other limiting factors, like agriculture intensification, or persecution in the case of some bird species.”

For more information on the Czech Society for Ornithology: www.birdlife.cz