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Deforestation and the Prothonotary Warbler

Have you ever heard of the Flyaways of the Americas? Well there are four Flyways, one of which is the Mississippi Flyway. These Flyaways are the migratory paths for birds who fly South from Canada and the Northern US during the winter months. For more information on the Flyways, check out the National Audubon Society.

The Prothonotary Warbler's follows the Mississippi Flyway path when migrating. This bird's ability to migrate is critically dependent on forests, and deforestation can jeopardize their survival. However, the Prothonotary Warbler is not the only species whose survival greatly depends on the existence of forests. As such, deforestation leads to biodiversity loss locally, regionally, and globally.

So one might ask, "Why should I care about biodiversity?". First, let me define biodiversity. Biodiversity can be thought of as the degree of genetic variability within a species, the degree of species richness within an ecosystem, and the degree of ecosystem richness that exists on Earth. All three dimensions of biodiversity are inter-dependent. For example, a lack of genetic diversity can lead to less viable offspring and eventually lead to the extinction of a species. That extinction reduces the degree of species richness within an ecosystem, and can compromise the viability of the ecosystem. Biodiversity is important because we depend on species richness for our ecosystem services, which pertain to our food, water, and air quality, along with the management of things like stormwater to mitigate flooding, etc.

Connecting back to the Prothonotary Warbler, while their species is considered stable at this time, they illustrate the connection between deforestation and species decline. Approximately 3 billion trees are cleared every year. If deforestation continues at this alarming rate, these birds will eventually become extinct. Also, for other species that are not as stable, deforestation can critically endanger their survival in the near term.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions pertaining to this article.


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