Risk to 'distinctive' avian species: impact on biodiversity and ecosystems

I thought this would be of interest to all iNaturalist members (in general) and to the Forum; although it is focused on birds, the implications can be connected for the topic of biodiversity in general.

The New York Times “Science” section on Tuesday July 26, 2022 presented a story on the biodiversity crisis titled, “Very High on the List to Go Extinct” (print edition) and also titled in the digital version as, “The Most Fascinating Birds Will Be the First to Go Extinct” with a sub-heading as, “ The biodiversity crisis will most directly affect distinctive members of the avian family. Get ready for a world that “is really simple and brown and boring.” This newspaper article is probably behind a paywall of the New York Times, but the article actually makes reference to a publication in Current Biology and can be found at this link:

It is worth reading, and the title of the article (as open access) is, “The homogenization of avian morphological and phylogenetic diversity under the global extinction crisis”, and is available as PDF download at that site.

Here are the highlights:
•Predicted loss of birds will drive exceptional declines in morphological diversity
•Species extinctions lead to a major loss of ecological strategies and functions
•Most biomes and ecoregions will experience morphological homogenization
•Phylogenetic diversity tends to decline as expected as species go extinct

One of key points for me was that avian biodiversity (or the presence of global ‘distinctive’ avian species) was the crucial factor for unique interactions with local and regional ecosystems. But the paper noted one group of distinct birds (of many others) that was disproportionately imperiled (which I did not originally appreciate) and in particular that caught my attention was: Vultures. A very important ecological role! My point: I am biased toward the Osprey diving into water, or the Cooper’s Hawk hunting in the trees, I will not ever under-appreciate the ‘distinctive’ Turkey Vulture or Black Vulture again (species I see most often in the field).


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