Birding, Carbon and Conservation

Birding, Carbon and Conservation

At the Bird Fair last year, a keen Berkshire birder with whom I was discussing climate change told me, without a hint of irony, that he had to fly around the globe several times a year to tick off species before global warming drove them to extinction! My puritanical hackles rose, but, let?s face it, we are all to some extent guilty. Bird-watching usually involves travel by car and many of us treat ourselves to one or two overseas trips a year. Some serious birders cover tens of thousands of miles a year chasing vagrants or rare endemics – I estimate that last months Long billed Murrelet in Devon was responsible for between 250 and 500 tonnes more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

There are basically two ways to reduce the impact of our emissions ? create less carbon dioxide and remove more from the atmosphere. As individuals, we can create less by using the train, driving more slowly, car-sharing etc. We can cause more to be absorbed from the atmosphere by protecting and restoring forests and grasslands. We need to do both.

Transport accounts for a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. For every 1,000 miles, an average family car produces a quarter of a tonne of CO2. Air travel is particularly costly in terms of emissions: a European return flight produces approximately half a tonne of CO2 per person; an intercontinental flight 1.5 to 5 tonnes depending on class and distance.

The World Land Trust restores natural habitats as part of its biodiversity conservation work and by doing so takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. A hectare of forest lost releases many hundreds of tonnes of CO2, a hectare restored, over twenty years or so, can absorb hundreds of tonnes. So, when you have reduced your carbon emissions as much as you can, with WLT you can ?offset?, or ?balance? your carbon and at the same time conserve threatened habitats and species.

Balancing a mid size car (1.5 ? 2.0 litre) costs around £20 per 10,000 miles. Offsetting flights costs around £4 per European economy return flight and £12 per intercontinental economy return flight. You can do this at, contact the World Land Trust (phone 01986 874422; go to or give me a call.

Renton Righelato

World Land Trust

Mobile: 0787 981 2564

Renton Righelato –

27 November 2006