Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Climate change fuels decrease in Albania’s migrant bird population



Climate change fuels decrease in Albania’s migrant bird population

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Birds fly over the Karavasta lagoon within the Divjaka-Karavasta National Park in Albania on January 31. AFP

Climate change fuels decrease in Albania’s migrant bird population

Thousands of migratory birds have failed to make their annual visit to Albania’s western coast this winter, experts say, pointing to climate change, overfishing and urbanisation as likely factors.

The number of waterbirds recorded in January 2022 in the Divjaka-Karavasta wetlands – an internationally important wintering site along the European migratory flyway – was 25 per cent lower than at this time last year.

Western Albania recorded the drop during the annual International Waterbird Census, a three-day global event to monitor the migration patterns of waterfowl across the world. Several species are affected by the decline, according to Taulant Bino from the Albanian Ornithological Society.

“We discovered that some 9,000 waterbirds are missing from the Divjaka-Karavasta lagoons compared to last year,” said Ardian Koci, head of the Divjaka-Karavasta National Park, where the protected wetlands are located.

Koci said a total of 25,000 birds were counted in Divjaka-Karavasta – one of the most important wetland ecosystems in the Mediterranean – during the census on January 15-16, as compared to 34,000 in the survey a year earlier.

“The reasons are multiple but above all, it is global warming that has disrupted the migration and breeding seasons,” Koci explained.

Disruptive weather patterns

Nexhip Hysolokaj, a regional biodiversity expert, said scientists in Albania had tracked a rapid decline in migratory bird populations over the past three years.

And while scientists say more research is needed to understand exactly how climate change is affecting birds, some point to the simple fact that ever-warmer weather means certain species no longer need to leave their northern breeding grounds when winter comes in order to find food further south.

“If there aren’t extreme temperatures in northern Europe, they prefer not to move, or they just migrate over shorter distances,” said Mirjan Topi, the author of the first guide to Albania’s birds.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A ranger monitors birds in the Karavasta lagoon. Thousands of migratory birds have failed to make their annual visit to Albania’s shores, experts say, pointing to climate change, overfishing and urbanisation as likely factors. AFP

In recent years, several species of migrating geese – including the Greylag Goose, the White-fronted Goose and the rare Lesser White-fronted Goose, which breeds in the tundra of northern Russia and Scandinavia – have largely failed to make their winter pilgrimage to Albania’s marshes.

The western lagoons are also famous for their resident Greater Flamingos and Dalmatian Pelicans, which have a three-metre wingspan rivalling that of the albatross.

But experts say the breeding cycle of the iconic pelican – whose fragmented populations are a concern for the long-term stability of the species – is being disrupted by increasingly erratic weather patterns.

In 2021, the pelicans began breeding at the start of January. This year, the nesting season did not begin until the end of January – a difference of several weeks – after a winter that started exceptionally late.

“The pelican breeding season seems to be behind last year,” Sajmir Hoxha, an expert in Albania for the French conservation group Noe, said.

Meanwhile, illegal fishing has depleted vital food sources in Albania’s lagoons, and rapid urbanisation is threatening fragile ecosystems, especially in the network of marshes and sand dunes along the tourist magnet that is the Adriatic coast.

To add to the pressures, a sprawling international airport is set to be built near the protected marshlands of the Vjosa-Narta region, just south of Divjaka-Karavasta.

This €100 million ($114 million) project, backed by a Turkish-Swiss consortium, “would directly affect wildlife and is a threat to species that breed there, winter there or stop over there on their way to Divjaka”, Topi said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro