Survival By Degrees: About the Study

We've answered some common questions regarding our latest climate study here

Sage Thrasher. Photo: Mick Thompson/Eastside Audubon

Survival By Degrees: About the Study

We've answered some common questions regarding our latest climate study here

  1. What is the Audubon’s Survival by Degrees Report?
  2. What are the report's primary findings?
  3. Where can I read the full report?
  4. Where can I find peer-reviewed scientific papers on the study?
  5. How does this new report compare to the 2014 report?
  6. What geographical range does the study cover?
  7. How are birds where I live projected to respond to global warming?
  8. Are birds with ranges that are shown to expand or shift “safe” from climate change?
  9. What does 1.5°C and 3.0°C mean?
  10. What can I do to help?
  11. Where can I access the data used in the study?

 

What is the Audubon’s Survival by Degrees Report?

Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million bird records—including observational data from bird lovers across the country. We plugged our bird data into the same climate models used by more than 800 experts in 80 countries to map where each bird might live in the future under a changing climate.

What are the report's primary findings?

Audubon’s new science shows that two-thirds (64%) (389 out of 604) of North American bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change. The good news is that our science also shows that if we take action now we can help improve the changes for 76% of species at risk.

Where can I read the full report?

You can download the report in PDF form in both English and Spanish

Where can I find peer-reviewed scientific papers on the study?

As of our launch day on Oct 10, 2019 the papers have been submitted to Conservation Science and Practice. You can read the pre-print versions of the climate-change analysis here and the climate threats analysis here.

Our methodology in Survival by Degrees is the same peer-reviewed methodology used for our North American Grasslands & Birds Report published earlier this year.

[1] Wilsey, C., L. Taylor, B. Bateman, C. Jensen, N. Michel, A. Panjabi, and G. Langham (2019). Climate policy action needed to reduce vulnerability of conservation-reliant grassland birds in North America. Conservation Science and Practice

[2] Grand, J., C. Wilsey, J. X. Wu, and N. L. Michel (2019). The future of North American grassland birds: Incorporating persistent and emergent threats into full annual cycle conservation priorities. Conservation Science and Practice

How does this new report compare to the 2014 report?

The 2019 Birds and Climate Report has the following features:

  • Assesses the vulnerability of 604 species to climate change and determines that two-thirds (64%) of the species surveyed are vulnerable to extinction (389 out of 604).
  • 70+ data sources and 140+ million bird records. Sources include eBird, U.S. Geological Survey, North American Breeding Bird Survey, and Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
  • Climate modeling based on 2014 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report models for 1.5, 2.0, and 3.0 degrees C of global warming.
  • Uses data for North America, including Mexico.
  • Includes new variables that are important for birds such as vegetation, human-land use in agriculture and urbanization, as well as group-specific variables (e.g. surface water occurrence). These were not in the 2014 report.
  • 1 kilometer resolution allows for a finer level of mapping detail for both winter and summer seasons.
  • Expert review process: Two ornithologists reviewed the projected impacts for each of the 604 species studied to ensure that each model was ecologically realistic.
  • Includes guild-based/habitat-based analysis of bird species, such as grasslands, arctic, boreal, coastal, aridlands, etc., with tailored modeling with specific variables, particularly in summer and winter.
  • Uses the latest climate modeling methods as climate science has improved since 2014. The models come from a report by an international panel of more than 800 climate change experts called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. The models are based on CMIP5 data from the AR5—IPCC 5th assessment. More specifically, Adaptwest’s downscaled North American data, ClimateNA.
  • Includes localized impacts of Earth’s changing climate.
    • sea level rise
    • urbanization
    • cropland expansion
    • extreme weather
    • fire weather
    • heavy rain
    • drought
    • false springs
    • lake level changes

The 2014 Birds and Climate Report had the following features:

  • Assessed 588 species’ vulnerability to climate change and found that 50% of birds are vulnerable. (314 out of 588).
  • Used data for United States and Canada only.
  • 10 kilometer resolution.
  • Same variables for summer and winter.
  • Two data sources:
    • U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey
    • Audubon Christmas Bird Count
    • Bird Records: 45,000.

What geographical range does the study cover?

The study covers North America.

How are birds where I live projected to respond to global warming?

Visit our Birds and Climate Visualizer— type in your zip code and it will show you how climate change will impact your community and your local birds—and it includes ways you can help.

Are birds with ranges that are shown to expand or shift “safe” from climate change?

Not necessarily. Our models look at the most fundamental climate needs each species requires for survival; they do not take specifics of habitat into account. A place in a grassland bird’s new projected range might have the right mix of temperature and seasonality, but if that place is a forest or major city instead of a grassland, the bird is not going to thrive there.

What does 1.5°C and 3.0°C mean?

Our planet has been warming rapidly since the Industrial Revolution and scientists are measuring our average global temperature based on historic averages. In fact, we have already reached 1.0 degrees Celsius and we see the impacts with stronger hurricanes in the East and severe drought in the West.
 
Thousands of climate scientists around the world study our environment by considering three future warming scenarios: 1.5°C (2.7°F), 2.0°C (3.6°F) and 3.0°C (5.4°F). The consensus is that our goal should be to hold warming at 1.5°C otherwise we will face increasingly dire consequences if the planet warms more than 2.0°C. If we do nothing, 1.5°C is imminent, 2.0°C would happen as soon as 2050 and 3.0°C would happen by the end of the century.
 
In order to hold warming steady we must act now to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. The bottom line is that by 2050 we must break even in carbon emissions by reducing the amount of carbon we produce and by absorbing what is produced through natural solutions like reforestation or with technology that removes carbon from the air.

What can I do to help?

Visit our Birds and Climate Visualizer— type in your zip code and it will show you how climate change will impact your community and your local birds—and it includes ways you can help.

Where can I access the data used in the study?

All range map outputs from Survival by Degrees can be found at the AdaptWest Databasin website: https://adaptwest.databasin.org/pages/audubon-survival-by-degrees.

The files are provided in raster format and include projected 1-km resolution suitability surfaces and other derived rasters from species distribution models for 604 North American bird species. Projections are available for the current distribution and for two future climate change scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) for the 2025s, 2055s, and 2085s.