Saving Amur falcon in the changing climate

Rahul Ashem *

Amur falcon in Bishnupur district on 31 October 2016
Amur falcon in Bishnupur district on 31 October 2016 :: Pix - R.K. Birjit Singh

Climate change is an issue of concern for non hibernating birds like Amur falcon. Sudden changes in climate can harm the bird's reproductive success and survival status. The migration of Amur falcon in Bhalok village is an indicator for healthy ecological environment and insect abundant forests.

Halting climate change is a long term activity. Biological changes in temperature, wind patterns, rainfall intensity and flash floods are in the present curriculum. Studies suggest that a small amount of change in the ecosystem services will cause numerous changes in the surrounding environment.

The change might cause major shifts in vegetation structure and ecological change. The worst scenario can be seen on species migration mostly on the long journey migratory birds.

In accordance to the 4th assessment report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is a serious matter on birds' diversity including huge shifts in distribution, major population decline and high levels of extinction. Climate change is affecting bird's behavior, distribution and population dynamics and is implicated in complete breeding failure in certain species.

Tamenglong is one of the important routes for migratory birds' species, the Amur falcon. The species, amurensis is closely linked with the Rongmei tribes of Tamenglong district, and is locally called as 'Akhuaipunia '. The district is also home to many endemic bird species.

Local villagers ascribe that the arrival of Amur falcon indicates the arrival of winter season and departure of summer. The Government of Manipur recently declared the village, Bhalok as Amur falcon village. Besides Bhalok, the countless number of birds also roosts at Phallong, Dailong, Barak, Lenglong and other villages in the district.

As a whole state, the bird range covers Churachandpur, Bishnupur, Senapati, and Ukhrul districts. The bird is categorized as the Least Concern under International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The bird is a Sched-ule-IV species protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It is also listed in Appendix II of CITES. Any persons who hunt or sell the bird meat are liable to be punished under the protection act of wildlife.

Climate change is not only affecting the environment but also disarranging the ecological balances of migratory birds. As a result of climate change, the bird can cancel their long term journey or shortens the routes.

Sometimes, the change can contribute to the collapse of breeding populations in the long term. Drastic and sudden changes in critical variables including temperature and precipitation can defunct the interdependent pairs of species losing synchronization (insects to hatch earlier before the birds offspring hatch).

The result leads to population explosion because birds cannot feed their offspring. Even small precipitation changes can have far reaching effects on the life cycle of migratory birds. If the mean annual precipitation stays the same but inter annual (year to year) variation increases by less than J0%, the birds population will ecrease considerably. The normal rainy season is now abnormally missing in the present era which might result in the increased mortality rates among vulnerable young birds' species.

In addition, the rising issue of environmental pollution has resulted in global warming which in turn influences the routes of migration and their annual migration. The change in climate is also expected to cause key shifts in land patterns, use by humans, in terms of agricultural and environmental changes. Such shifts can create problems for migratory birds if the plants and animals they interact with do not shift at the same rate of time.

Certain changes of crop pattern in the surrounding villages are another factor for reducing the migratory birds' population. Urbanization, industrialization, and fragmentation of forests are other factors that affect the migration pattern of migratory birds. Many studies expect that the change in climate will cause countless change to ecosystems in the next few years. Moreover, the change in climate also adds stress to threatened habitats, ecosystem species and is likely to trigger species migration.

Climate change introduces many new challenges. However the actual change is still not very clear because different species will react differently to any changes. The need is to take up measurable steps for the conservation of habitat to benefit the communities socially, economically and environmentally.

Amur falcon starts their journey from Mongolia and flies thousands of kilometers to reach Bhalok village in search of feeding grounds or to escape the severe winter of their natural habitat. The term 'migration' is seasonal for migratory birds and most birds need a protection habitat to breed and the temperature for breeding and hatching are of importance.

Therefore, it is the right time to provide safe passage as well as draw up appropriate action plans for the long term conservation for this migratory bird of prey. The1 district, Tamenglong is welt known for the presence of diverse floral and faunal di-versity including the migratoryl birds since time immemorial.

Every year, Amur falcon festival is celebrated in Tamenglong district to promote conservation of this species and also provide an opportunity for the local community to benefit from their annual migration. Addition-' ally, the raptors play an important role in ecological cycle by controlling rodent's population and other small mammals in the surrounding environment.

* Rahul Ashem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at benthhook(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on November 27, 2017.

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