China’s rare birds may move north as the climate changes, new data suggest

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The endangered red-crowned crane could see its range halved because of climate change, according to a new study.

Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images

By Dennis NormileOct. 16, 2020 , 4:30 PM

China’s growing army of amateur birdwatchers is a dedicated bunch—and that dedication could eventually pay off in better protection for their feathered friends. A new study uses more than 2 decades of bird sightings by China’s citizen scientists to map the ranges of nearly 1400 species, from the endangered red-crowned crane to the pied falconet. Spinning those maps forward to 2070, researchers have determined what their future ranges might be—and pinpointed 14 priority areas for new nature preserves.

Researchers have used such citizen science data from bird lovers before, but experts say this study is the first in China to use it on a nationwide scale. “One of the highlights of this paper is really the use of the citizen science data set for research and conservation purposes,” says Jimmy Choi, an ecologist at Southern University of Science and Technology who was not involved in the study.

Birding is a relatively new endeavor in China, but it has grown rapidly over the past 20 years. Many universities now have birdwatching teams. The birdwatchers …

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