Wildlife Wednesdays: Climate Change and Minnesota's Loons | weatherology°
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By: Meteorologist Megan Mulford
Updated: Oct 29th 2019

Wildlife Wednesdays: Climate Change and Minnesota's Loons

Loons have a familiar haunting call, can be found on the many lakes in Minnesota, and are widely popular, which makes them the state bird. They could be on their way out, along with 55 other species from the state if nothing is done to combat climate change. The main focus is cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report by the National Audubon Society. Minnesota is actually one of the country's fastest-warming states because of its northern location and warmer winters overall. An increase in just 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the threshold set by climate scientists, could cause major impacts for these birds and other species. A study published last month in the Journal of Science already reported that 3 billion North American birds have vanished since 1970. The conclusion from the Audubon researchers showed that two-thirds of 604 North American bird species face possible extinction as Earth's temperature rises, and if nothing is done to cut carbon emissions or other heat-trapping greenhouse gases. 

Loons are fairly adaptable birds, but rising temperatures in Minnesota will make it less adaptable for them. Warming lakes and an increase in algae blooms put stress on fish species, which loons require for food. Rising temperatures will lead to an increase in rain, and rising water levels will flood the areas where loons like to build their nests. If this is the case in the future, loons will migrate more north in the summers, according to Audubon researchers. Loons are not the most vulnerable birds to climate change in Minnesota; Boreal species, such as warblers and chickadees, will suffer greater because they are less adaptable to changes in temperature and habitat.

Luis Ramirez, Audubon's director of conservation for the Upper Mississippi River Flyway, says that "Minnesota has been doing a lot of good work in habitat restoration over the last 10 years since the state's Legacy Amendment began funding projects across the state." Bob Dunlap, a zoologist with the state's DNR, says that many of the birds have the greatest conservation needs under the state's Wildlife Action Plan. After the report was released by National Audubon Society, he said something needs to be done. 

The good news is that, as of right now, there is no declining trend in loons. The 1989 census showed about 12,000 breeding pairs across the state, and currently that remains about the same. 

Loons could migrate more north if nothing is done to combat climate change.
An increase in just 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit could cause major impacts for loons and other species.