John Matthews, Executive Director of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA) speaks with David Duncan, Publisher, OOSKAnews in this (LINK) OOSKAnewscast audio interview.
Matthews describes new research that he has co-authored showing that recent climate change is having profound effects on water quality in wetlands across the West of the United States – affecting birds that use these wetlands for breeding, migration and wintering.
Are these bird populations “the canary in the coal mine” for all of us?
“Climate-Altered Wetlands Challenge Waterbird Use and Migratory Connectivity in Arid Landscapes” is one of the first studies globally to show that climate change is altering water quality. Matthews makes the case that if shifts in climate can alter water quality for birds, then climate change can alter water quality for humans too.
According to the study published March 15 in the journal Scientific Reports, long-term trends towards higher temperatures and less precipitation have altered environmental water quality and reduced waterbird habitat, creating clear winners and losers in bird species in North America's Great Basin, and potentially threatening the integrity of the Pacific migratory flyway for many species.
The study, which began in the mid-1990s, is the result of a research collaboration between scientists at Oregon State University, US Geological Survey, University of California, Merced; and the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA). The group found significantly higher temperatures and lower amounts of precipitation in the region during at least the past 20 years. The result was less spring snowmelt flowing into Great Basin wetlands. The water arrived earlier and was present for a shorter period of time, reducing the amount of appropriate habitat at the right time for migrating and breeding waterbirds. The researchers found significant associations between climate and bird abundances. With higher temperatures and less precipitation, significant changes bird abundance were observed annually in 11 of the 14 waterbird species studied across more than 50 years.
John Matthews is co-founder and secretariat coordinator for AGWA, which is chaired by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and the World Bank. His work integrates technical and policy knowledge for climate adaptation for practical implementation. John has worked globally on these issues since 2007 and has authored many publications on adaptive management for water infrastructure and ecosystems. He has a PhD in ecology from the University of Texas and is based in the United States.