US air pollution regulation saved over 1.5 billion birds

“Our research shows that the benefits of environmental regulation have likely been underestimated.”


According to a new Cornell University large-scale study, federal environmental regulation has improved air quality resulting in saving over 1.5 billion birds in American skies over these last four decades. 

“Our research shows that the benefits of environmental regulation have likely been underestimated. Reducing pollution has positive impacts in unexpected places and provides an additional policy lever for conservation efforts,” says Ivan Rudik, the study’s lead author. 

To examine the relationship between bird abundance and air pollution, the researchers used models that combined bird observations from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird program with ground-level pollution data and existing regulations, the Good News Network reports. They tracked monthly changes in bird abundance, air quality, and regulation status for 3,214 U.S. counties over a span of 15 years.

In humans, ground-level ozone pollution can damage and inflame the lungs and worsen respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. But animals also suffer. 

The study finds that ozone pollution causes the greatest harm to small migratory birds that make up most of all North American land bird species. Unhealthy air pollution damages their respiratory systems and harms their food supplies. 

“Not only can ozone cause direct physical damage to birds, but it also can compromise plant health and reduce numbers of the insects that birds consume,” says study author Amanda Rodewald. 

The Clean Air Act has been a positive move for humans and animals and these results are proving it.


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