Climate change threat to seabirds, warn researchers

Written by Tom Freeman on 18 August 2015 in News

Study reveals adverse wind may affect seabird populations

Stronger winds as a result of climate change could impact on populations of seabirds, according to the results of a Scottish study.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found lighter female seabirds struggle to dive into turbulent waters caused by adverse weather conditions, making foraging for food increasingly difficult.

Birds were tracked for two years on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in south-east Scotland by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and British Antarctic Survey.

Dr Sue Lewis, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: “In our study, females had to work harder than males to find food, and difficult conditions exacerbated this difference. Forecasted increases in wind speeds could have a greater impact on females, with potential knock-on effects on the well-being of populations.”

Although climate change may mean slower wind speeds in some parts of the world, it is thought Scotland may become wetter and stormier.

Dr Francis Daunt, of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: “Most of the research on climate change has focussed on the effects of warming, but there is growing concern about increasing wind speeds and frequency of storms. 

“This study shows one way in which wind could affect wild populations, and may be widespread since many species have sex differences in body size.”

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