Op-Ed for Portfolio–drpaleontology

What We Can Do to Bring them Back

A warm summer night fades into the early dawn, as orange sunbeams peek out from behind tree branches and bushes. Bugs make all sorts of calls in the distance, and squirrels can be heard rustling in the leaves, but another soothing sound is missing: the light chirps and orchestrated hymns of songbirds have faded to near silence, and it is our duty as a species to get these early risers singing again.

A recent report estimated that nearly a third of all species of birds in North America have vanished since 1970. Some may just brush this off as just another depletion of the planet, but species loss is dire. As indicator species, birds are much more environmentally sensitive to deterioration in air and water quality, the main cause of which is human behavior. Apparently, the severe loss of birds is a sign that North American ecosystems are on the verge of collapse.

Birds are a very important species to have on this planet. They help in a vast multitude of ways including pollination, pest control, disbursement of seeds, and even as food for higher trophic level organisms. Endangered species of course are always a concern, but what worries scientists, and what we should worry about is that the birds being affected are not technically on the endangered species list. Species are being looked over because they are not the ones in most need, but what is being overlooked is their decline. They are just our normal every day birds and they are in grave danger. According to a recent study done by a group of North American ornithologists, since 1970, Blue Jays have lost about one fourth of their total population.

Other indicator species are being analyzes all over the world and similar results are showing huge losses in population. For example, at this very moment about forty percent of all amphibians are facing extinction. Another class of animal with such sensitivity are flying insects. Just over Germany alone, about 82 percent of biomass in the air is gone. Humans have thrown themselves into a new epoch of Earth’s history which is now called the Anthropocene. An epoch named after ourselves sure sounds as if we are more important than anything else going on, but the real reason for this name is from the severity of our impacts on the planet. We are all in danger. How many more innocent lives must be taken for us to wake up. We cannot let these creatures go without a fight in which we defend them or risk our own peril.

Governments have stepped up before and continue to face the problems at hand, but there is much more work ahead of us. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is one step in the right direction in which the United States is attempting to hold back these extinction level events. This act is meant to restore natural habitat to thousands of species of birds as well as thousands of other animals on this continent. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in 1918 with the goals of restoring the population of birds such as geese and ducks. The impacts of this act are clearly successful in which the population of Canadian Geese grew from about 0.2 million in 1970 to almost 2 million in 2012. If acts like these were passed on conservation of our everyday birds, populations may finally start to rise again.

Governments are the strongest way to help these animals, but communities as well as individuals can help too. A large amount of bird deaths come from collisions with windows. Decals and window covering can be applied to windows to help prevent these such issues. Another helpful tool is to leave some light source by a window at night so that they can see that the window is in fact a window rather than a passageway through your house. Bird baths, houses, and feeders attract birds and shelter them, while keeping cats indoors and pesticides safely stowed protects them from dangers. Pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are large contributors to death as well. All three chemicals are of no help to any animal really. As bugs eat plants and die from the toxicity contained, birds may eat the dead bugs and the bioaccumulation of the toxins will lead to other animals that eat the birds to get sick as well.

Supporting wildlife and bird conservation can be a great way to get involved on a small scale. Every cent helps towards the main cause of stopping extinction. This may be a costly act to save them, but the benefits strongly outweigh the financial cost. A healthy environment means a healthy human population. We take for granted the walks that we can go on in nature and hear the birds chirp and the bees buzz. If no action is taken the pleasant strolls that we know and love could be surrounded by nothing more than just the harsh clang of machinery. We need to act soon. These signals of ecological disaster are looming closer than we should have ever let them get. We are the reason that around 3 billion are gone, and we are the only ones who can help bring them back.

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