The effects of the deadly and highly contagious bird flu outbreaks in the United States are expected to be less than those of 2015, when more than 50 million birds were culled, according to Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
“In terms of the nature of the outbreaks, the size of the operations that have been impacted, the number of states that are dealing with backyard operations as opposed to commercial-sized operations, would strongly suggest that when this is all said and done it’s going to be significantly less than what we experienced in 2014-15,” Vilsack said on Tuesday in a call with reporters.
Vilsack said stricter security measures at poultry facilities and heightened containment efforts after virus detections have reduced the potential for infections and the risk of transporting the virus from one facility to another
Chloe Carson, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, is not as confident because it is still early in the migration season. Carson said no site-to-site infections have been detected in Iowa.
While the majority of existing research focuses on the impact climate change will likely have on animal species in the future, new research suggests that the future is now. Researchers performed a systematic review of published literature and found that 47 percent of land mammals and 23 percent of bird species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of threatened species have already been been negatively effected by climate change.
At present, the IUCN reports that only seven percent of mammals and four percent of bird species are threatened by the warming planet.
The study found that climate change is impacting animals on every continent. In general, animals that breed more slowly and live in high altitudes are suffering the greatest losses. Mammals with a more specialized diet are most profoundly effected due to regional vegetation change. For birds, species with small dispersal distances and longer generation lengths are most at risk.
The article read, “Our results suggest that populations of large numbers of threatened species are likely to be already affected by climate change, and that conservation managers, planners and policy makers must take this into account in efforts to safeguard the future of biodiversity.”
Those animals belonging to taxonomic orders which have been most extensively studied showed the most significant trend. Michela Pacifici of the Global Mammal Assessment program at Sapienza University of Rome is the report’s lead author. He said,
“We have seriously underestimated the effects of climate change on the most well-known groups, which means those other groups, reptiles, amphibians, fish, plants, the story is going to be much, much worse in terms of what we think the threat is from climate change already.”
Animals that live in tropical regions, like primates and marsupials, are at the highest risk because they have adapted to that biome’s climate, which has been relatively stable for thousands of years. The study said, “Many of these [animals] have evolved to live within restricted environmental tolerances and are likely to be most affected by rapid changes and extreme events.”
Just two orders of mammals, rodents and insect-eaters, were found to have benefited from climate change. Generally, these animals thrive in a variety of climates, breed quickly, and can burrow to protect themselves from changes in weather.
One of the study’s authors, James Watson, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia, said climate researchers should shift their focus to present-day.
“It’s a scientific problem in that we are not thinking about climate change as a present-day problem, we’re always forecasting into the future,” Watson added, “When you look at the evidence, there is a massive amount of impact right now.”
The proposed area, which will include Indian Bluffs State Preserve and Pictured Rocks Wildlife Management Area, would be Iowa’s 23rd bird conservation area (BCA). According to a 2007 watchlist, about 25 percent of all bird species in the United States are experiencing sharp population declines. Bruce Ehresman is the Wildlife Diversity Program biologist for Iowa DNR. He said, “Creating bird conservation areas is a high priority for the Iowa DNR. The proposed Indian Bluffs-Pictured Rocks BCA is a very unique area containing woodland, grassland and wetland habitats that provide homes to at least 111 nesting bird species, many of which are declining at an alarming rate.”
The conservation area, like others in Iowa, will operate at a large-landscape level in order to accommodate birds of all sizes. Ehresman indentified the area’s potential beneficiaries, he said, “Birds of large forests, like the broad-winged hawk and wood thrush, savanna species such as the red-headed woodpecker and Baltimore oriole, to declining grassland birds like the eastern meadowlark and bobolink will benefit.”
Each BCA is made up of about 10,000 acres, and therefore requires a collaborative effort between conservation organizations, public agencies, and private landowners. This reserve, like the others, would have one or more areas of permanently protected bird habitat bordered by privately owned lands that provide additional habitat. Private land consultants and wildlife biologists say that they are willing to offer guidance to any landowner willing to make their land a more suitable place for birds. The BCA program is completely voluntary for landowners and poses no restrictions or regulations for participants.
Curt Kemmerer is DNR wildlife biologist for the Jones County area. He said, “Establishing a bird conservation area helps draw attention to the needs of birds that are in trouble, while allowing the local community and concerned citizens an opportunity to help these birds.”
The public meeting will be held Wednesday, November 16th at the Jones County Conservation Central Park Nature Center. More information can be found here.
This week’s On the Radio segment looks at ongoing efforts by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to reintroduce the osprey, a native predatory bird, to Iowa. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.
An Iowa Department of Natural Resources program aims to increase populations of a native predatory bird throughout the state.
This is the Iowa Environmental Focus
Six ospreys from Minnesota were relocated to Iowa this summer in an effort to increase nesting populations. Three of the six were released near Clear Lake in north central Iowa and the other three near Swan Lake in Carroll county. The Iowa DNR started the program in 1997 and since their first successful nesting in 2003 have produced 141 wild osprey at 78 different nests.
Ospreys are birds of prey that generally feed on fish and are known for the bone-crushing strength of their talons. These raptors can have wingspans of nearly six feet and within a lifespan can travel the equivalent of two and a half times around the globe.
For more information about ospreys, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.
From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.
An estimated 400,000 birds die each year after colliding with wind turbines, and that number will increase as more wind turbines are built around the nation.
Although Iowa is the second leading producer of wind energy in the nation, bird collisions have not been a major issue in our state. Many of Iowa’s turbines are planted in crop areas, which see little avian activity.
For more information on the petition, and on the risk posed to birds by wind turbines, read The Gazette’s article here.