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Habitat loss could spell trouble for 91 percent of migratory birds

Original story published by The Mirror.

Results from a new study reveal that just 9% of migratory birds receive adequate protection across their entire ranges.

"A typical migratory bird relies on many different geographic locations throughout its annual cycle for food, rest and breeding", study author Claire Runge, a researcher with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and the University of Queensland, said in a press release.

Fewer protected areas are maintained by nations in these regions, and those that do exist, fail to overlap adequately with the routes adopted by the migratory birds. Eighteen species had no protection in their breeding areas and two species had no protection at all along their whole route.

With passage of time, a decline has been witnessed in the number of protected areas, which has now started taking toll on migratory birds. Conservation efforts aren't that dogged in those areas, and there simply isn't much protection for migratory birds. Similarly, when Audubon Louisiana noticed that their Prothonotary Warbler population was declining more quickly than the bird's habitat was disappearing in the USA, it "got us thinking that nearly certainly there are threats outside of the USA that are contributing to the decline of the population", Erik Johnson, the director of Audubon Louisiana, told Audubon this summer.

According to Dr. Runge, over 50 percent of the species of migratory birds that travel the world's primary flyways have seen a serious decline in population numbers within the past 30 years.

Migratory birds face species decline and possible even extinction owing to the fact that a large majority must fly across areas that are not being properly protected by the nations that are home to these stopover and crossing points. 

Having to cross huge stretches of land and sea during their remarkable journeys, migrant birds are considered the "endurance fliers of the bird kingdom", as described by Dr. Claire Runge of the University of Queensland.

Associate Professor Richard Fuller of CEED thinks these migratory birds would have a better chance to survive anywhere in the world they go if all countries would take up habitat conservation as a primary task, or the efforts of one country would be destroyed by the neglect of other countries the birds visit on their annual journeys around the world.

"We found that more than 90 per cent of species have one or more parts of their lifecycle poorly protected".

The team also examined over 8,200 areas that have been identified as internationally important locations for migratory bird populations.

The bar-tailed godwit is a bird that migrates from Arctic breeding grounds to Australia and New Zealand. "Many Central American countries, for example, meet the targets for more than 75 per cent of their migratory species, but these same species have less protected area coverage in Canada and US".

The largest protection gaps in habitat crucial to lots of bird species were located in China, India and parts of Africa and South America. 

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