“Staggering”

It was spring in Melbourne when I began to work through the landmark study on bird species losses published just a fortnight earlier, “Decline of the North American Avifauna.” First I read Elizabeth Pennisi’s deft summation in Science a day after the main paper’s release. One feature of Pennisi’s review is that she interviewed lead author Ken Rosenberg, a Cornell ornithologist and conservation scientist, and what struck me is the importance of the work of modern climate science heroes like Rosenberg. Rosenberg and his nine coauthors brilliantly used diverse datasets to put together an America-wide perspective on over five hundred species of birds.

“I frankly thought it was going to be kind of a wash,” Rosenberg confided to Pennisi, meaning that more resilient birds might have risen to make up for those in decline. But instead he provided amazing documentation of an almost across-the-board picture of the impact of humanity on the creatures of the skies. “It’s staggering,” Rosenberg said, of the fact of nearly a third of bird species expunged in the last four to five decades.

In the end, “I am weirdly hopeful,” Rosenberg said. As I turn to the main report, I’m not confident I’ll feel any hope at all. Be that as it may, I commend Elizabeth Pennisi’s overview.

(Image from the article)