Climate change has made heat waves a normal event and a household conversation. But, the impact is not just on human health. It has dehydrated and exhausted birds too (Clarke, 2022). In India temperatures across the country have reached close to 49 degrees causing heatwaves in several cities. It has been reported that bird mortality has been on the rise with birds coming down with heat strokes (Carleton, 2022).
Heatwaves and impact on biodiversity
Heatwaves are essentially unusually high temperatures outside of the usual temperature range that last for a few days over a particular region. They are primarily caused by the movement of high atmospheric pressure into an area and winds are almost non-existent making the environment hot. These heat waves have the potential to be fatal to human health as they can dehydrate and change the potassium-sodium ratio of the body, confusing the nervous system and leading to even a stroke (Explained: What Are Heatwaves & How Do They Occur? 2022).
Several reports reveal that the temperatures in India have already risen by 0.7 degrees celsius which is expected to further increase four-fold by 2100. If the temperature continues to rise causing heatwaves in the country, then several regions which are global biodiversity hotspots with numerous endemic species of plants and animals would face a rapid unusual pace of evolutionary adaptability which may threaten their very existence (Aggarwal, 2020).
The impact on biodiversity is thus inevitable in a region. Heatwaves affect the biodiversity of a region. As far as marine life is concerned, warmer waters can change their food habits, and lifestyle and affect the competition that exists between invasive and native species of fish and underwater plants. Furthermore, extreme heat can also cause psychological stress affecting the growth patterns of plants (Macinnis, 2022).
Bird mortality in India
The impact of heatwaves on birds has been on the rise in the northern part of the country in cities like Ahmedabad and Gurgaon. In Gurgaon, hospitals reported an increase of 50 percent in the number of bird patients to the hospital tracing the illness to the heat. In Gujarat, dehydrated and exhausted birds were reported to have fallen from the sky inviting treatment from animal hospitals across the state. Rescuers recorded a ten percent increase in the number of birds rescued amidst the heatwave (Clarke, 2022). The heatwaves have specifically affected the high-flying birds like kites and pigeons. Health officials across the state have advised hospitals to set up wards to particularly treat heat strokes and other illnesses caused due to heat waves both for animals and humans.
One of the foremost solutions to tackle the heat is obviously to address the primary challenge of climate change. However, this is a long-term solution. Some of the ways to protect these birds from becoming victims to the heatwave are to keep water on the terrace and veranda for birds to rest and drink water to keep themselves hydrated. Secondly, lesser consumption of air coolers and conditioners can also prevent the heat generated from the appliances from aggravating the heat which inevitably affects the birds. Thirdly, as mentioned earlier, hospitals should be equipped with all the wherewithal needed in order to treat these birds affected by the heat, requiring treatment.
Aggarwal, M. (2020, June 23). India’s heatwaves will intensify four-fold by 2100, says its first climate assessment report. Scroll.in. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://scroll.in/article/965275/indias-heatwaves-will-intensify-four-fold-by-2100-says-its-first-climate-assessment-report
BirdLife Data Zone. (n.d.). BirdLife Data Zone. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from http://datazone.birdlife.org/sowb/casestudy/catastrophic-bird-mortality-events-will-increrase-during-extreme-heat-waves
Carleton, A. (2022, May 5). India Is Getting So Hot That Birds Are Coming Down With Heatstroke. VICE. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjbyk5/birds-heat-stroke-deadly-heat-wave-india
Clarke, B. (2022, May 12). Dehydrated birds falling from sky in India amid record heatwave. Al Jazeera. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/12/dehydrated-birds-falling-from-sky-in-india-amid-record-heatwave
Explained: What are heatwaves & how do they occur? (2022, April 30). Hindustan Times. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/explained-what-are-heatwaves-how-do-they-occur-101651295233710.html
Macinnis, C. (2022, January 18). How do heatwaves affect biodiversity? The Big Q. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.thebigq.org/2022/01/18/how-do-heatwaves-affect-biodiversity/
Wallace, D. (2022, May 17). Opinion | Climate Change Has Made Deadly Heat Waves Normal. The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/17/opinion/india-heat-wave-pakistan-climate-change.html