Black Oystercatchers Sound the Global Warming Alert

The black oystercatcher confines its life to the rocky shores along the West Coast of North America.

Dozens of organizations on the West Coast of North America are tracking the plight of the black oystercatcher, a bird that confines its life to the rocky shores along ocean waters. Rising sea waters, a product of global warming, and human disturbances are destroying this bird’s habitat and, in doing so, we are getting today a grim picture of life ahead on the coast.

I didn’t know about the monitoring of this bird until yesterday evening when I attended a presentation at the Monterey Audubon Society. Two research students discussed their findings that in the extreme show the black oystercatcher losing 82 percent of its habitat by the end of this century.

They noted how the construction of sea walls to hold back ocean waters is making matters worse for the bird, although it would be possible to build walls that would incorporate the bird’s habitat into its design. But such planning is controversial, expensive and slow in coming. I wonder what power the oystercatcher has when pitted against the billionaire homes sprayed by the ocean?

These monitoring projects are lines in the sand. The students, using existing data points, say that about one-third of the black oystercatcher population of 18,000 on the West Coat is in California. Local efforts are in place to track the bird’s growth or decline and to feed the information to planners charged with designing a future for the coastline.

About 90 miles north of Monterey the city of Pacifica has already lost homes to rising ocean waters. The habitat discussion there is drowned out by fear and anger.

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