New Zealand’s Bird Extinction Rate Study’s Gauge
About 12 per cent of birds have died out as result of human activity in past 120,000 years, say scientists, with New Zealand used as the baseline for bird species loss on the basis that the country had zero unknown extinctions, Sophie Kevany writes in a story for The Guardian.
The study, published in Nature Communications, estimates that about 1430 bird species have died out since the Late Pleistocene period, which started about 120,000 years ago, Kevany reports.
Known bird extinctions, identified using fossil or other records, account for about 640 species. The new estimate includes the birds that went extinct without the event being recorded – what scientists call a dark extinction.
“We know we have lost iconic birds like the dodo, but we wanted to get a better estimate of the bird extinctions we didn’t know about,” said Dr Rob Cooke, an ecological modeller at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the paper’s lead author.
“New Zealand was the benchmark, it has the most complete bird record based on found fossils and bird observations, so that is the zero point, there is nothing unobserved in New Zealand.”
Original article by Sophie Kevany, The Guardian, December 19, 2023.