Science Talk

Birds sounding early alarm on climate change

Sooty terns (left) at Michaelmas Cay in the Great Barrier Reef; little stints (right) - shorebirds that breed in the Arctic - spotted in a rare sighting in 2017 at Chek Jawa wetlands; and the common redshank (below), commonly found in Sungei Buloh be
A seabird colony in the Philippines Tubbataha Reefs, where Bird Islet has lost nearly a fifth of its area to coastal erosion, putting its large colonies of boobies and terns at risk.PHOTO: COURTESY OF LEE TIAK
A seabird colony in the Philippines' Tubbataha Reefs, where Bird Islet has lost nearly a fifth of its area to coastal erosion, putting its large colonies of boobies and terns at risk. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LEE TIAK
Sooty terns (above) at Michaelmas Cay in the Great Barrier Reef; little stints – shorebirds that breed in the Arctic – spotted in a rare sighting in 2017 at Chek Jawa wetlands; and the common redshank, commonly found in Sungei Buloh between August and April. Such migratory bird species hold ecologically important roles as “messengers” of the state of the world’s wetlands, given their dependence on tidal mudflats, mangroves, lakes and other wetlands, according to the writers. PHOTO: NATIONAL PARKS BOARD, COURTESY OF ONG TUN PIN
A seabird colony in the Philippines' Tubbataha Reefs, where Bird Islet has lost nearly a fifth of its area to coastal erosion, putting its large colonies of boobies and terns at risk. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LEE TIAK
Sooty terns at Michaelmas Cay in the Great Barrier Reef; little stints (above) – shorebirds that breed in the Arctic – spotted in a rare sighting in 2017 at Chek Jawa wetlands; and the common redshank, commonly found in Sungei Buloh between August and April. Such migratory bird species hold ecologically important roles as “messengers” of the state of the world’s wetlands, given their dependence on tidal mudflats, mangroves, lakes and other wetlands, according to the writers. PHOTO: NATIONAL PARKS BOARD, COURTESY OF ONG TUN PIN
A seabird colony in the Philippines' Tubbataha Reefs, where Bird Islet has lost nearly a fifth of its area to coastal erosion, putting its large colonies of boobies and terns at risk. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LEE TIAK
Sooty terns at Michaelmas Cay in the Great Barrier Reef; little stints – shorebirds that breed in the Arctic – spotted in a rare sighting in 2017 at Chek Jawa wetlands; and the common redshank (above), commonly found in Sungei Buloh between August and April. Such migratory bird species hold ecologically important roles as “messengers” of the state of the world’s wetlands, given their dependence on tidal mudflats, mangroves, lakes and other wetlands, according to the writers. PHOTO: NATIONAL PARKS BOARD, COURTESY OF ONG TUN PIN

Their decline is stern warning of earth's deteriorating life support systems

Climate change is the most pressing crisis of our time.

We are seeing an increase in harder-hitting storms, droughts, wildfires and other weather extremes spanning Finland to the Philippines, many unprecedented in scale and intensity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2019, with the headline 'Birds sounding early alarm on climate change'. Print Edition | Subscribe