The Bahamas move toward saving the piping plover from habitat destruction and climate change.
By 2080, climate change will disrupt the habitats of half of all North American birds, according to the National Audubon Society. That’s why the organization is looking at innovative ways of protecting the habitats of some particularly at risk species, like the piping plover for example. It turns out that a remote island in the Bahamas could be the key, according to a story on PBS.
The isolated Joulter Cays is home to a large population of migratory birds. The island is pristine, with gorgeous untouched beaches as far as the eye can see. Bright, white sandy beaches are dotted with nesting grounds. One native bird in particular is receiving special attention. It’s called the piping plover, a bird which has been endangered for over 30 years. Just 8,000 remain worldwide due to habitat destruction, specifically on the East Coast of the United States. Climate change is also impacting the birds and there are fears that as we harden structures to try and hold back the oceans, we will completely destroy their remaining habitat. In an effort to protect the birds, some beaches along the coast are closing during nesting times.
But a piece of the puzzle was missing until recently, researchers weren’t sure where the birds went in the winter time. Until now. A small research project conducted by the National Audubon Society is tracking the number of piping plovers that end up in Joulter Cays. Once the birds are tracked, researchers catch the birds, and place an easily identifiable band on their legs.
By tracking the birds, researchers can see which areas that the birds regular so that those areas can be properly protected. The organization wants Joulter Cays in particular to be turned into a national park since it’s home to so many migratory birds and as of yet, it’s still very isolated.
To add a financial incentive for locals, the organization wants the area to become a haven for bird watchers, an avid group of nature lovers that are willing to travel far and wide to see birds. Especially those birds that are difficult to track. Locals who complete an extensive coarse can receive a certificate from Audubon Society to be a guide. The organization hopes that this will provide an economic incentive to protect the birds in their habitat.
It’s about protecting these birds where ever they land. Because some of them migrate thousands of miles and if you protect them in one place and not another they still won’t be able to survive. The hope is that untouched havens like Joulter Cays will be protected from the habitat destruction that occurs with development, especially some of the particularly problematic resorts that have been built in the more populated areas of the Bahamas.
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Image of the endangered piping plover bird from Shuttershock