We found out last year that hotter, drier weather due to climate change is likely causing bird populations in the Mojave Desert to collapse at an alarming rate. A new study published today suggests one big reason why: Birds are having a hard time staying hydrated, which means they’re having a hard time staying cool.
Over the past century, temperatures in the Mojave Desert have risen about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, while precipitation has declined in some parts. That’s coincided with a roughly 40 percent decrease in the number of bird species documented there.
Adapting has been harder for some birds than others.
“Birds that required more water over the last century to cool off experienced more decline in the desert,” said Eric Riddell, postdoc in museum of vertebrate zoology at the University of California, Berkeley and co-author of the paper. “If birds had an unlimited amount of water they could probably deal with a lot more heat.”