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Each year, throughout the seasons, billions of animals undertake journeys to find food, access better habitats or reproduce. They migrate in groups and as individuals, flying, swimming, crawling and walking across international borders and habitats to survive, carrying seeds and nutrients.
A major new United Nations report finds that humans are not only making these journeys more difficult, but have put many migratory species in a perilous state.
Nearly half of the world’s already threatened migratory species have declining populations, according to the first report of its kind from the UN. More than a fifth of the nearly 1,200 migratory species monitored by the UN – whales, sea turtles, monkeys, songbirds and others – are threatened with extinction.
“These are magnificent species that have incredible journeys, in some cases economically beneficial (to humans), as well as poetry, song and cultural significance,” said Amy Fraenkel, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Nature Conservation. migratory species of wild animals.
The report, written by conservation scientists, is the most comprehensive assessment of the world’s migratory species ever conducted. The study looked at 1,189 different species already protected by the Convention on Migratory Species – a 1979 treaty intended to conserve species that cross international borders – to see if conservation efforts are working.
In some cases, they are. Wildlife crossings help animals cross roads and fences. The regulations help prevent poaching and overconsumption of certain endangered fish and mammals. Protecting habitat gives species the opportunity to move and thrive.
However, to reverse population decline, the report’s authors say, these “efforts must be strengthened and intensified.”
The publication is the latest global report to express concerns about the planet’s non-human inhabitants. A 2019 assessment of global biodiversity found that one million of the estimated 8 million species on Earth are at risk of extinction, most within decades, due to human activities such as overconsumption, deforestation, pollution and development. A 2022 report from the World Wide Fund for Nature found that wildlife populations have declined by an average of 69% over the past 50 years.
For migratory species, threats linked to human activities can be amplified. Species protections vary from country to country. Enforcement of conservation laws may differ by region.
Hunting and fishing – overexploitation – and habitat loss due to human activities have been identified as the two biggest threats to migratory species, according to the new report. Invasive species, pollution – including light and noise pollution – and climate change also have profound impacts, according to the report.
Many species migrate with the changing seasons. Human-caused climate change is altering seasons, lengthening summers, shortening winters, and shifting spring and fall. Scientists have documented animals, such as birds in North America, adjusting the timing of their migrations based on these changes. Not everyone is keeping pace with the change, leading to what scientists call phenological asynchrony.
World leaders from the 133 countries that have signed the Convention on Migratory Species are meeting this week in Uzbekistan to chart a way forward.
The new report, Fraenkel said, should give parties a sense of urgency, but it should also be a guide for everyone “who wants to continue to see the birds fly and the whales jump in the water,” he said. -she declared. “Look at this report and find something (you) can do to help these incredible species continue to survive.”
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