Tuesday, February 28, 2023
During certain months of the year, several orange beaks stand out among the endless Andalusian crop fields, symbol of an animal that has been integrated for centuries in the retina of the area's inhabitants and that has been progressively reducing its visits for some time now.
These are storks and, like them, there are many migratory birds whose long journeys around the globe have been altered by the climatic situation of our times. These species –which, depending on the season of the year, migrate in search of food to other latitudes– have been forced to shorten their journeys and, in some cases, to change their periodicity. The stork flight to Europe is one example, but it is not the only one. In fact, and also in the Iberian Peninsula, several recent studies have shown that swallows have brought forward their return from Africa by up to two weeks during the last 50 years.
The increase in temperature is a main factor among the causes that produce the alteration of migrations, but there are also other factors, such as the deterioration of soils.
In the equilibrium that structures the natural environment, forced changes in one species have direct consequences on another. In this way, people are also affected by alterations in the habits of migratory birds. These animals play a very important role in the planet and the ecosystem. Some of their major functions on biological diversity include seed dispersal or crop pest control, since in some cases they are insect predators. Thus, their absence during certain times of the year when they were previously present generates a reordering of the chain that unbalances the balance.
On the other hand, migratory birds also play an important role in the pollination of plants, which in turn –as has been proven as a result of the decline in the population of certain pollinating insects– has major consequences for crops and, therefore, for agricultural activity. In fact, the United Nations Environment Programme stresses the need to conserve migratory birds and calls for awareness-raising campaigns in this regard.
However, the formula to prevent these alterations from increasing and continuing to lead to a worsening of ecosystems involves general action for the protection of habitats which, obviously, must go hand in hand with the adoption of sustainability as a productive and living formula. In this sense, encouraging responsible and local purchases, as well as always considering the planting of native trees and not imported species, or the recovery of wetlands characteristic of their migrations are also concrete measures to make certain environments more friendly to migratory birds.
Today is not May 13, Migratory Bird Day, but another day to try to ensure that the southern fields do not lose this characteristic element that has been part of their landscape for centuries.
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