For Amazon species, the new conservation assessments are based on models projecting the patterns and extent of deforestation in the region. Of particular concern are species with longer lifespans, such as the Rio Branco antbird, which is unable to tolerate even moderate rates of forest loss.
Others, like the hoary-throated spinetail, may lose over 80% of their habitat in coming decades. As a result, many species have been placed into higher threat categories on the IUCN Red List.
“We have previously underestimated the risk of extinction that many of Amazonia’s bird species are facing,” said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information. “However, given recent weakening of Brazilian forest law, the situation may be even worse than recent studies have predicted.”
Undertaken every four years, the 2012 update is a comprehensive review of the conservation status of the world’s 10,000-plus bird species. Worryingly, it shows that the Amazon is not the only part of the world seeing large declines in bird populations.
In Northern Europe, the long-tailed duck is of particular concern, with over 1 million individuals disappearing from the Baltic Sea in the last 20 years. The status of this species has been uplisted to ‘Vulnerable’, but the reasons for its decline are unclear. Another sea duck, the velvet scoter, is faring even worse, and has now been listed as Endangered.
In Africa, white-backed vultures and Rueppell’s griffons are increasingly under threat, with rapid declines occurring as a result of poisoning, habitat loss and persecution. Their decline has wider implications, as these species play a vital role in the food chain by feeding on dead animals.
The update does not reveal all bad news, however. For example, the restinga antwren, a rare bird from southeast Brazil, has been downlisted from Critically Endangered after surveys found it to be more widely distributed than previously thought. The creation of a new protected area is also likely to make its future more secure.
For some birds, conservation efforts have helped to turn around their fate. The Rarotonga flycatcher, a species endemic to the Cook Islands, was once one of the world’s rarest birds. However, intensive conservation efforts, particularly the control of invasive alien predators such as black rats, have helped bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
“Such successes show the remarkable achievements that are possible where effort and dedication by conservationists and local communities are backed up with political support and adequate resources,” said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Global Research Coordinator.
More conservation action needed
With many bird species around the world facing a number of increased threats, BirdLife has called for conservation efforts to be increased.
“The worrying projections for the Amazon emphasize the urgent need for governments to meet their international commitments by establishing comprehensive protected area networks that are adequately funded and effectively managed,” said Dr Butchart.
According to Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group, “It is clear that conservation works, but more action is needed if we are to protect these magnificent species which play an integral role in maintaining healthy ecosystems on which both birds and humans depend.”
Read more on this story at BirdLife International – Threat to the Amazon’s birds greater than ever, Red List update reveals.
Find out more about threatened birds at BirdLife International – Spotlight on threatened birds.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author