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For over one hundred years, ornithologists and amateur birders have jointly campaigned for the conservation of bird species, documenting not only birds' beauty and extraordinary diversity, but also their importance to ecosystems worldwide. But while these avian enthusiasts have noted that birds eat fruit, carrion, and pests; spread seed and fertilizer; and pollinate plants, among other services, they have rarely asked what birds are worth in economic terms. In Why Birds Matter, an international collection of ornithologists, botanists, ecologists, conservation biologists, and environmental economists seeks to quantify avian ecosystem services – the myriad benefits that birds provide to humans.
The first book to approach ecosystem services from an ornithological perspective, Why Birds Matter asks what economic value we can ascribe to those services, if any, and how this value should inform conservation. Chapters explore the role of birds in such important ecological dynamics as scavenging, nutrient cycling, food chains, and plant-animal interactions – all seen through the lens of human well-being – to show that quantifying avian ecosystem services is crucial when formulating contemporary conservation strategies. Both elucidating challenges and providing examples of specific ecosystem valuations and guidance for calculation, the contributors propose that in order to advance avian conservation, we need to appeal not only to hearts and minds, but also to wallets.
Çağan H. Şekercioğlu is professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah, associate of ornithology at the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, and distinguished visiting fellow at KoC University of Istanbul. He is coauthor, most recently, of Conservation of Tropical Birds and Winged Sentinels: Birds and Climate Change.
Daniel G. Wenny is landbird senior biologist at the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory and visiting research scholar at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley.
Christopher J. Whelan is visiting research associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a research affiliate at the Field Museum, Chicago. He is coeditor of Restoration of Endangered Species: Conceptual Issues, Planning and Implementation.
"Such an interesting volume. Authoritative and well-researched, Why Birds Matter will appeal to both ornithologists and conservation biologists – I can see myself referring to it frequently in the future. Authors of each chapter are well chosen world leaders on their topics, and the material is well written and cohesive. It will be an exceedingly useful book to those of us who work on bird conservation and want a one-stop summary of what we know about the contributions of birds to ecosystem services."
– Chris S. Elphick, University of Connecticut