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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

US desert songbirds at risk in a warming climate

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Posted: 08 Mar 2017 05:11 AM PST  ScienceDaily full article here

Rising temperatures and heatwaves are putting songbirds at greater risk for death by dehydration and mass die-offs, report scientists. Projected increases in the frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves in the desert of the southwestern United States are putting songbirds at greater risk for death by dehydration and mass die-offs, according to a new study.

Researchers used hourly temperature maps and other data produced by the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) — a land-surface modeling effort maintained by NASA and other organizations — a long with physiological data to investigate how rates of evaporative water loss in response to high temperatures varied among five bird species with differing body masses. Using this data, they were able to map the potential effects of current and future heat waves on lethal dehydration risk for songbirds in the Southwest and how rapidly dehydration can occur in each species. Researchers homed in on five songbird species commonly found in the desert southwest: lesser goldfinch, house finch, cactus wren, Abert’s towhee and the curve-billed thrasher…

Thomas P. Albright, Denis Mutiibwa, Alexander. R. Gerson, Eric Krabbe Smith, William A. Talbot, Jacqueline J. O’Neill, Andrew E. McKechnie, Blair O. Wolf. Mapping evaporative water loss in desert passerines reveals an expanding threat of lethal dehydration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 114 (9): 2283 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1613625114

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