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New science confirms warming climate bad for forest birds

Kiwi, kākā and whio are just some of the native forest birds at risk of being wiped out as introduced predators increase with climate change.

New research from Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has found that predator-vulnerable native forest birds are becoming more restricted to higher, colder parts of remaining forests.

The main reason for what the scientists are calling ‘thermal squeeze’ is likely to be more relentless pressure from higher numbers of introduced predators in lower, warmer forests.

The situation is likely to worsen with climate change, which will reduce the extent of cooler refuges where predator numbers are lower for much of the time.

“Warming temperatures make life easier for introduced predators like stoats, rats and possums and this is bad news for our forest birds. This is another reason why we need to take action to reduce global warming and also continue to ramp up pest control,” says Forest & Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey.

The forest bird species most imminently endangered by thermal squeeze in New Zealand are larger-bodied, and include some of the rarest forest birds remaining on the mainland such as kiwi, whio, weka, and kōkako. Birds that nest in holes and therefore vulnerable to being attacked and eaten on the nest are the next most vulnerable and this includes rifleman, mohua, kākā, kea, and kākāriki.

“It’s vital that the Zero Carbon Bill has strong, binding targets to cut emissions and recognises the role of nature in our response to climate change. As well as cutting emissions, we need to help make nature more resilient in face of unavoidable climate change,” says Mr Keey.

The authors of the paper are Susan Walker, Adrian Monks and John Innes of Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

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