/ Modified aug 10, 2018 9:21 a.m.

Research Reveals Climate-Driven Bird Collapse in Mojave Desert

Deserts globally have borne the brunt of warming and drying over the past 50 years.

cactus wren costas' hummingbird Desert-adapted birds like the cactus wren, at left, have declined throughout the Mojave Desert, but not as much as other birds. Decreased rainfall because of climate change appears to be the culprit. On the right, a Costa's hummingbird.
Chelsea Hofmeier

Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, have published a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing the collapse of the Mojave Desert bird community over the past century due to climate change.

Cactus Mojave Desert VIEW LARGER The Mojave Desert.
Ben Young Landis, USGS Western Ecological Research Center

To paraphrase the Bard: "There is special providence in the fall of a [sage] sparrow."

Extreme climates and scarce resources place desert dwellers on the knife edge of survival, and deserts globally have borne the brunt of warming and drying over the past 50 years.

When researchers revisited sites of early-20th-century bird surveys by noted biologist Joseph Grinnell, they found that the sites had lost on average nearly half of species, and that 39 of 135 species had declined significantly due to habitat changes and less precipitation.

Because the crash went unbalanced by rising fortunes for other fauna, researchers believe it's a new normal that could worsen as the region grows hotter and drier.

Arizona Science Desk
This story is from the Arizona Science Desk, a collaborative of the state's public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Arizona Science Desk.
By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona