Asia: Birds, habitats and people
Birds and habitats
The Asia region extends from the tropics to the Arctic, and includes the highest mountain ranges in the world. The great diversity of climates and habitats is reflected in a great diversity of birds, with about 2,700 species occurring in the region.
Natural habitats in Asia have been greatly affected by human activities. Some parts of the region are particularly suitable for agriculture and have consequently been intensively cultivated for hundreds or even thousands of years. Other habitats were relatively untouched until recent decades, but the growth of international trade in timber and other commodities has led to their rapid exploitation. As a result, some of the birds which inhabit the most intensely exploited habitats are now threatened with extinction, particularly those which are most specialised and least able to adapt to changes in their environment, or the species with particularly restricted ranges.
Asia is currently experiencing a period of rapid change, linked to dynamic economic growth. Half of the world's people live in the region, with China and India both having human populations in excess of one billion. The combination of economic development and increasing human population is putting unprecedented pressure on the environment. Traditional land-use practices and associated beliefs are gradually breaking down in response to the need to increase production. The demand for raw materials has led to massive expansion in logging and conversion for cash crops such as oil palm, and hunting of birds for food and trapping for the wild bird trade are becoming increasingly unsustainable.
Despite the high estimation of birds in many Asian cultures, the natural environments in which birds live tend to be accorded far less value. Thus, although there is increasing awareness amongst Asian governments and civil society that the region faces extensive environmental problems, there is little official acknowledgement that these problems are the result of the economically unsustainable utilisation of species and habitats for short-term growth. There is therefore a massive challenge to conservation to establish the environment where it should be, at the heart of policy for all governments aiming for prudent and sustainable development.
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Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund