The Future of Birds in our National Parks

The birds you expect to see in your favorite National Park may be radically changing soon due to climate change. It’s been a joy and an honor to help the @audubonsociety with the visualizations in this new landmark study called “The Future of Birds in our National Parks,” which launched yesterday.

There are three main numbers we care about for the purposes of this study:

  1. How many bird species are in each park now?
  2. How many new bird species will potentially colonize this park when the climate changes?
  3. How many birds will potentially be driven out of the park when the climate changes?

Audubon’s study is exhaustive, covering every National Park and the hundreds of species of birds that live in them at various seasons. All in all it paints a portrait of a rapidly changing ecosystem in which National Parks serve as an increasingly critical sanctuary for birds seeking suitable places to live. GlacierDenaliGrand CanyonBadlandsEverglades, they’re all there.

A crucial element of all of this is the difference between summer and winter populations. On the whole, the Parks will lose more species in the summer than in the winter as things heat up. Just because the weather in these places will be suitable for bird populations doesn’t mean they’ll be able to get there safely, of course. But this is a good way for us to start to get a handle on the changes to our landscape & Parks that are coming, so we can start to figure out what to do about it.

The interfaces also allows for each park to be placed in context, so you can see where each location sits in relation to all the other National Parks in the study:

We’re delighted to be working with Audubon again. Our first project with them and our friends at Mule Design visualized bird range shifts over the whole US in“the broadest and most detailed study of its kind,” and it’s good to see the work continue in a big and public way.

The full report is online here.

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