Building Biodiversity | Audubon
International Day of Biological Diversity (#Biodiversity Day) is on May 22 and gives us an opportunity to celebrate the amazing diversity of life on our planet. It is also a day when concerned individuals, organizations and governments from around the world highlight innovative solutions to the global biodiversity crisis. Building on the momentum started at COP15 with the development of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, this year’s theme is From Agreement to Action: Rebuilding Biodiversity. Building biodiversity means creating a safer and healthier future for all life. But to do that, we need to start taking meaningful action now.
Did you know that about 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction? It is a staggering and quite alarming figure. As the term web of life implies, life on this planet is interconnected and interdependent. Healthy and vibrant ecosystems are not only important to those who live within them, but they can also provide healthy drinking water, food and medicine for many beyond their geographic boundaries. This is why global action to protect biodiversity is so important. At Audubon, we’re taking a hemispheric approach to conservation with strategies that address and mitigate the most critical threats to wildlife and biodiversity. Here are just a few of the biologically rich habitats across the hemisphere where Audubon is focusing its efforts:
North American Boreal Forest, Canada
The Boreal Forest is one of the largest remaining intact forests on Earth, with approximately 500 billion trees and 1.5 million lakes and ponds. It stretches from Alaska to Labrador and provides nesting grounds and migratory stopovers for nearly half of the common bird species found in North America. Migratory birds from as far away as Chile and Argentina visit the Boreal each spring to breed and raise their young. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the bird nursery of North America. As fall migration begins, up to 5 billion adult birds and fledglings pour out of the forest and fly south to winter homes throughout the Western Hemisphere. And the birds are not alone; caribou, bears, wolves, lynx, wolves and countless other species thrive in the Boreal in numbers rarely seen elsewhere.
Sadly, threats from development and the effects of climate change are putting vital habitats within the Boreal at risk. Because of the Boreal Forest’s importance to birds, Audubon has a specific Boreal conservation program and strategy under its Audubon Americas initiative. We recognize that across Canada, Indigenous nations and organizations are responsible for the most ambitious current proposals to conserve Boreal lands. Together, these Indigenous-led proposals could protect more than 100 million hectares of Boreal forest. That’s why our conservation strategy involves working collaboratively with governments and indigenous organizations to advance their conservation and land stewardship goals. We offer our science and communications resources to provide support for Indigenous-led initiatives across Canada, such as Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and Indigenous Caretaker Programs.
Sagebrush Steppe, USA
The sage-steppe ecosystem is home to more than 350 conservation species and provides services and benefits to millions of people. As North America’s largest ecosystem, it spans 14 states and three Canadian provinces. The Great Sage, an obligate species for sagebrush, is completely dependent on large areas of healthy sagebrush habitat for its survival and is a reliable guardian of the health of this ecosystem.
A recent report from the US Geological Survey (USGS) found that the Great Sage population has declined by more than 80 percent across its range since 1965, with a 37 percent decline since 2002. Driven by a dramatic loss of more than half its habitat, these declines are far greater than one bird species.
Other wildlife, plants, communities and livestock that call this place home are also threatened by the degradation of this landscape, particularly the continued march of invasive species and the increasing frequency of larger and hotter fires in these areas. . Between 2000 and 2018, wildfires have burned more than 15 million acres of sagebrush habitat (roughly the size of West Virginia) on public lands alone.
Audubon’s Public Lands team and regional offices such as Audubon Rockies and Audubon Washington continue to take action in partnership with our membership, chapters and other NGOs to find pragmatic solutions that balance the needs of people and birds.
Passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act Offers real hope for bird and sage country. The Department of the Interior, specifically the Bureau of Land Management and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is expected to receive hundreds of millions of dollars for ecosystem restoration and wildlife risk reduction across the country, and Audubon and partners are working hard to ensure that the wild country gets its fair share. Not only will these efforts help control invasive grasses that overtake native sage, but they will also create new local jobs in these rural western communities.
Cauca Valley, Colombia
Colombia is one of the most biologically rich countries in the world, home to almost 10 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. It is also the country with the greatest variety of birds. There are about 2000 species, including more than 200 migratory species and 80 endemic species.
In western Colombia, the wetland habitats of the Cauca Valley (Valle del Cauca) are home to more than 403 bird species, but these important habitats are at risk. In recent decades, the Cauca River valley has lost many of its wetlands due to obstruction or drying up mainly due to agriculture and livestock production. 80 percent of the area that existed in 1970 (33,715 hectares) has already been lost. Conserving the wetlands that still exist in the region is vital for birds and biodiversity. Audubon Americas is implementing a conservation strategy in Colombia through deep interventions in the Cauca Valley region. Working with our local partners, we seek to prioritize and refine restoration activities and bird-friendly practices to get the highest possible return on conservation investments, such as use of tree and shrub species that benefit migratory birds while supporting native bird species. We work to leverage and leverage funding from local partners to increase support for wetland and forest restoration to better support bird and biodiversity conservation. We also engage communities in building a strong movement to advance bird and habitat conservation throughout the Cauca Valley and the country.
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