The state bird of Assam, the white-winged wood duck, locally called Deo Hanh or a divine bird could be pushed to extinction due to the effects of climate change and other aggravating anthropogenic pressures in the Himalayan region of Eastern India (IEH), a study by a group of researchers has warned.
The IEH region, particularly Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur, is home to more than half (450) of the world’s 800 population of white wood ducks, declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. (IUCN) in 1994. The bird species is found in India and some other nations bordering the Northeast. It was declared as the state bird of Assam in 2003.
A study on the impact of climate change on birds in Assam states that 436.61 square kilometers of viable habitat will be lost by 2070.
“Tropical forests support populations of white-winged woodpeckers. It is predicted that climate change will have a major impact on the ecosystems of the world’s tropical forests. It is likely to disappear between 2050 and 2070,” said the study. .
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The report was recently published Journal of Nature Conservation. The research team included Jyotish Ranjan Deka and Syed Ainul Hussain of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Animesh Hazarika of Assam University, Silchar, Abhijit Boruah, Jyoti Prasad Das and Rubul Tanti of Aaranyak, a conservation group. of Assam.
The study said that the average annual temperature in the area is 22 degrees Celsius – 30 degrees Celsius and the annual rainfall of 1,000-1,200 mm has the highest probability of occurrence of bird species. But the potential distribution is likely to decrease in every state due to climate change, except Meghalaya.
Variations in annual temperature, precipitation in the wettest months (June to September), and decreased precipitation in the hottest quarter (October to December) will be important bioclimatic variables to lead to significant habitat loss. possible, said the report. .
The potential of areas on the border of Bhutan and Assam will increase the support of white-winged wood ducks as this species ‘requires an average annual rainfall of about 1,000-1,200 mm,’ she said.
The study added that anthropogenic threats such as habitat loss, forest fragmentation, habitat degradation, water pollution and drying up of water bodies due to climate change have reduced the number of birds in their natural habitats. Hunting and gathering eggs for food has further threatened their existence. In the tropical forests of Assam, a decline in the population of white-winged wood ducks has been observed mainly due to the destruction of forest habitat and clearing of forests near water bodies,” it said.
Another study conducted by the Life Trust of India between 2018-2020 said that the white-winged wood duck is facing the threat of extinction due to widespread loss of forest habitat and poaching across its distribution.