Global Warming: New Challenge to Protecting Southeast U.S. Wildlife

On April Fool’s Day the New York Times gave us yet another look into the impacts of global warming in the editorial, State of Birds. A third of bird species in America are endangered, threatened or in serious decline, caused by the usual suspects: development, air and water pollution; and now, global warming.

This is certainly no joke. The Times accurately declared, “Every threatened species reveals some aspect of our lives that could be adjusted.”

BirdI recently spoke on the topic of “Saving What You’ve Saved: Why It’s Important to Engage Your Communities on Global Warming” at the Southeast Land Trust Conference in Alabama, hosted by the Land Trust Alliance. Without any “adjustment,” the Southeast faces some serious impacts by the end of the century –- precipitation increasing by 20%, but higher temperatures that will increase evaporation. For example, the July heat index is expected to rise by 8-20 degrees. That combo means more severe flooding and more severe drought.

For those land trusts working so hard to protect the amazing biological diversity of the Southeast, global warming is one of their biggest challenges. Based on research from the United States Geological Survey, 78% of the 127 National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeast will be in a different habitat system if we don’t reduce global warming. That means temperate forests could become grasslands and shrublands. Many birds, including the state bird of Georgia will no longer live or breed in the Southeast. And more and more communities along the coast will be threatened by sea level rise.

We all need to be thinking about how we have to “adjust” — starting with adjusting our country’s energy policy so we can finally turn the corner on the old dirty fossil fuel era and toward a clean energy future. That’s an adjustment worth making.

For more information on how global warming impacts wildlife, click here.

To find out more about global warming impacts in the Southeast, click here.

Published: April 3, 2009