Protecting the Hornbills from the Ills of Climate change 

  • Prelims: Climate Change, Kalahari desert, Hornbills.
  • Mains: Climate Change, Mitigation Strategies

   Rapid climate change has the potential to strongly influence the physiology, behaviour and breeding success of animals. Research frequently point to the fact that increasing temperatures, for instance, are having negative effect on animals. These range from mass die-off events during heat waves to less obvious problems like difficulty in finding food.

   For birds like hornbills in Arid Zones, rising temperatures pose a significant problem. Birds in these dry zones usually breed in response to rainfall, which often occurs during the hottest time of the year. Research suggests that high temperatures over a few days or weeks can have negative effects on foraging and body mass. This can lead to reducing the condition of offspring or the probability that young birds will survive to adulthood and breed. Recent Researches see the connection between effects in air temperatures and the breeding output of southern yellow-billed hornbills.

Kalahari desert
Kalahari Desert (Src: Encyclopaedia)

Desert Temperatures and breeding birds :
  • Studies claim that the temperature in the Kalahari region have risen from about 34°C to about 36°C from the mid 1990's to the present day. This equates to a warming rate of about 1°C per decade, a rate five times faster than the worldwide average of about 0.2°C per decade.
  • It was found that breeding output of hornbills was negatively correlated with increasing air temperatures and the occurrence of drought within the breeding season. Breeding attempts all failed when average daily maximum air temperatures exceeded 35.7°C. And the effects of high air temperatures were present even in non-drought years.
  • Considering the strong negative correlation between high air temperature and breeding output, Scientists argue that global warming has likely been the primary driver of the recent, rapid collapse in breeding success of the bird population studied. 

Southern yellow-billed hornbill
Southern yellow-billed hornbill

  •   Overall, though this study is specific to southern yellow-billed hornbills, scientists suggest that the findings are likely applicable to a range of species.

Way forward

In the short term, there are options such as providing water and insulated nest boxes. But in the Long-term, it would be necessary to preserve habitats which warm less rapidly or which can buffer the effects of climate change on biodiversity.

This Article is an excerpt from the Research Article by Doctoral student Nicholas B. Pattinson on Shared under Creative Commons Category.