November 25, 2013 at 3:09 am #1288MikeKeymaster
Starving seabirds hit by climate change?
Posted: 18 Sep 2006
Reports of hundreds of dead or starving young seabirds around
Scotland – including some many miles from the coast – and Northern
Ireland are leading to speculation among experts that these incidents
may be linked to climate change.
Staff from several organisations, including the RSPB, are assessing
the extent of the situation. Most of the casualties are guillemots –
a type of seabird. Post mortems on the birds shown that many of the
birds are underweight and have empty stomachs, suggesting they are
suffering from a chronic shortage of food. Sandeels are a principal
prey for guillemots and many other seabirds.
Dr Euan Dunn, head of marine policy for the RSPB, said: “Able to dive
300 feet for fish prey, guillemots are massively buffered against
scarcity, so evidence of starvation signals a desperate lack of food.
Food shortage has reared its ugly head in a number of guillemot
colonies in recent years, but the breadth and scale of these reports
of starving birds is more troubling.”
Counts of seabird colonies around Scotland and in Northern Ireland
have revealed that they have had another disastrous year with food
shortages leading to a low recruitment of young birds.
Commenting on the potential impacts of climate change affecting UK
seabirds, the RSPB’s Conservation Director, Dr Mark Avery, said: “The
seas surrounding the British Isles are among the most productive in
the world and, despite decades of overfishing, they still support
internationally important seabird colonies. But, seabirds are facing
key threats as life-giving cold-water-loving plankton shift, taking
the foundation of the foodchain with them. Distressing images of
seabirds failing to find enough sandeels to feed their chicks is an
early warning sign of worse to come.”
So far there have been reports of nearly 100 dead or dying guillemots
in Northern Ireland, principally washed up on the shores of South
Down, and around 120 guillemots in the Loch Fyne area of western
Scotland. Several guillemots have also been reported from highly
unusual inland locations, including the centre of Glasgow,
Crianlarich and Loch Awe. Some birds have been reported swimming up
small burns, presumably in a desperate attempt to find food.
Source: RSPB. See: http://www.rspb.org.uk
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