Protecting coastal areas for birds and people
Photo: Traci Sepkovic/Audubon Photography Awards
Marine and coastal birds are in steep decline due to climate change, development, overfishing, and pollution and the numbers are stark. Globally, seabird populations have decreased by 70 percent since 1950 and in North American alone, shorebird populations have decreased by 70 percent since 1973. Audubon’s coastal program is working to reverse this crisis in four ways:
Coastal Resilience: Rebuilding and strengthening coastlines to restore bird habitat and protect communities from the effects of climate change by promoting nature-based policies and projects, or “natural infrastructure,” which create undisturbed habitat for birds and other wildlife, save taxpayer dollars, and safeguard communities from storms.
Gulf Restoration: Engaging communities to ensure a healthy and vibrant future for the birds, other wildlife, and Gulf communities in the aftermath and rebuilding period after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
Marine Conservation: Defending and supporting policies that protect seabird prey and working to restore, protect, and create new seabird sanctuaries and marine protected areas.
Coastal Stewardship: Recruiting leaders and volunteers who are dedicated to reducing the threats posed to beach-nesting birds through advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation.
Address and reverse the drastic global decline of marine and coastal birds
Forge a national community of advocates based on person-to-person relationships, shared values, and commitment to the protection of birds
Defend and advance policies that protect marine and coastal birds, their prey, and habitat
Climate change has many impacts to marine and coastal bird health. Forage fish, the main source of prey for seabirds and some shorebirds, are affected by warming ocean waters. Warming ocean waters cause oxygen and phytoplankton declines, which then negatively affects forage fish populations. And sea-level rise can destroy critical coastal habitats. From 1990-2016, sea levels have risen by up to8.3 inches. And scientists predict that by 2100, sea levels will rise anywhere from 1 – 8 feet. Sea level rise will cause flooding that can destroy habitat birds need for nesting, feeding, and more. Birds that reside in coastal areas are at risk because they have shown no adaptation strategy to flooding.
Marine and coastal birds are threatened by oil spills, plastic pollution, and poor air and water quality.
Available habitat, including mudflats and open beach, undisturbed and healthy habitat is a requirement for migratory and nesting shore and seabirds. With populations increasing in coastal areas, coastal development rates are also increasing. Development activities include filling in wetlands and/or building on existing habitats to develop urban, industry, and agriculture. Scientists predict that one fourth of all U.S. coastal lands will be developed by 2025.
Seabirds, marine mammals, and other marine wildlife prey on forage fish that are also fished for commercial purposes and churned into vitamins, cosmetics, fertilizer, feed for livestock, and more. When forage fish populations drop below one-third of their maximum size, seabird reproduction declines.
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