The journal of Landscape Ecology published a study on the way climate change and housing development affect breeding of birds in California. Dennis Jongsomjit and a team of scientists of PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO) established that the threat changes in land use, and in particular new housing developments, present to bird species could be as big as the influence of climate change.
Although scientists are well aware of the fact that new infrastructure and developments can cause habitat loss and degradation, the main focus of recent studies is the influence of climate change.
Dennis Jongsomjit emphasizes that while all attention is paid to one factor, the influence of the others is somehow underestimated. In this sense, his study not only examines the impact of climate on birds shifts and distribution, but also relates this to the conditions that future land use changes will offer to the species.
By doing this, the scientists were able to compare and examine both threats, which allowed them to gain better understanding of the influence of each. They looked at data collected from numerous locations in California and modeled the distribution of 64 bird species using climate models developed at UC Santa Cruz.
The climate models were then added to models for future housing developments, and the impact of each was assessed.
The results varied between species and locations. As Dr. John Wiens, PRBO Chief Scientist, points out, the study showed that the places were climate change is predicted to have the highest impact, are not necessary the places with the most development pressure. However, the problem for most species is where these two factors coincide.
Based on their findings, the scientists suggest that in order to allow species to adapt to changes due to climate change, we should try and limit other factors that influence their distribution. The only way to do this, however, is to join forces and have conservation practitioners and land-use planners work closely together. This is especially needed since the impact of climate change is already visible.