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Survey captures global picture of air pollution’s effects on birds

Researchers sorted through nearly 70 years of scientific literature to assess the state of knowledge of how air pollution directly affects the health, well-being, reproductive success and diversity of birds. Only two field studies since 1950 have looked at any aspect of the health and ecological well-being of wild bird populations in the United States. Part of the problem, one researcher said, is the many variables in play. Not only are studies of wild bird communities difficult to implement, but factors such as types and levels of air pollution, dynamic atmospheric conditions, species-specific responses and the difficulty of teasing out direct versus indirect effects of air pollution can confound even the most basic efforts to assess how birds fare when exposed to chemicals in the air. Air pollution is one of the leading and most direct environmental threats to human health, said another researcher.

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