Monday, December 26, 2011

‘Spectacular migrations’ must go on

Try to imagine yourself as a tiny bird, weighing only about as much as a penny. Then think about flying from Canada to Mexico for the winter, and flying back in the spring – a total of 4,000-5,000 miles.

This “spectacular migration” by the calliope hummingbird actually happens, all weather conditions and other hazards to the contrary.

Detailed in a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society, many such long-distance trips are in peril. The report includes 24 terrestrial and 17 aerial migrations, with most of the large-scale migrations taking place in the Western US.

Hoping to marshal public support and preservation of the corridors wildlife use for their trips, the Society decided to publicize these crucial – and fascinating – migrations, instead of merely declaring, “We need to protect ecological connectivity.”

Keep hummingbirds and Alaskan caribou and arctic terns and bats going. People can understand that.

Take the bats for instance. For their trip to Mexico each year, three species of bats depend on “nectar corridors” to sustain them en route. But land development could rob them of the nectar, pollen and fruit they need.

According to the NYTimes story on this, “Wildlife migrate to seek water or food at different times of the year, or to breed. The ability to freely move across the landscape could become even more important as the climate changes and wildlife need to adapt . . .

“The problem is that corridors are often very long, and many obstacles crop up because migrations have not been recognized or protected.” Natural obstacles, such as river flooding, can also occur.

There are ripple effects when migration corridors aren’t protected. Other animals, including humans, are affected. For instance, because songbird migration is down, so is their consumption of insects, which can then do more damage to crops and forests.



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