According to a UN estimate, about half of the world’s migratory species are in decline

In an alarming revelation by the United Nations, the inaugural State of the World’s Migratory Species report discloses a stark reality: nearly half of the planet’s migratory species, including a vast array of creatures from fish and sea turtles to elephants and shorebirds, are experiencing significant declines.

This comprehensive assessment, heralding a grim milestone in our understanding of global biodiversity, underscores the severe impacts human activities have had on these vital ecological contributors.

According to Mark Hebblewhite, a distinguished professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Montana, this report illuminates the critical condition of over 50% of migratory species worldwide, attributing their decline predominantly to human-induced factors.

“Migration is a natural phenomenon that boosts the population numbers of these species. The loss of migratory patterns spells a drastic reduction in animal populations,” Hebblewhite conveyed to ABC News, highlighting the gravity of the situation.

The U.N. report, unveiled on Monday, paints a distressing picture: approximately 44% of migratory species are dwindling in numbers, with over 20% facing the specter of extinction. Migratory species, as defined by the U.N., play crucial roles in ecosystems, traversing national borders and vast distances in a cyclical, predictable manner, contributing to biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Amy Fraenkel, the executive secretary for the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), emphasized the arduous journeys these species undertake, facing myriad threats en route and at their destinations, crucial for their breeding and feeding.

An alarming finding from the report is the precarious state of migratory fish, with 97% of the monitored species edging towards extinction, highlighting a particularly dire situation in aquatic ecosystems.

The report attributes this decline to a range of human activities and climate change impacts, including overexploitation through illegal hunting and fishing, habitat loss, and the barriers imposed by human infrastructures like fences, roads, and altered land use.

Hebblewhite advocates for immediate, urgent actions to safeguard these imperiled species, emphasizing the necessity to protect not only the animals but also their critical migratory paths and habitats. The report also calls for a global concerted effort to mitigate the impacts of climate change and pollution, including chemical, plastic, light, and noise pollution, which significantly affect migratory species and their habitats.

Interestingly, while the report indicates that migratory species in Asia face the highest threats, those in Europe, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean are showing signs of population increases. This disparity underscores the complex challenges and successes in conserving migratory species across different regions.

The report, prepared for CMS’ 14th Conference of the States Parties in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, not only brings to light the challenges faced by migratory species but also emphasizes the importance of international collaboration for their conservation.

Dr. Philippa Brakes, Chair of the CMS Expert Group on Animal Culture, calls for an expanded scope in future assessments to include species not currently listed on the CMS appendices, underscoring the complexity and necessity of cross-national efforts to ensure the thriving of migratory species populations.

This unprecedented report serves as a clarion call for global action, highlighting the intricate relationship between human activities, climate change, and the survival of migratory species, urging for a concerted effort to reverse the tide of decline and ensure the preservation of our planet’s migratory biodiversity.

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