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British seabirds face extinction due to climate change risks

  • Seabirds colonies face extinction
  • Climate change threatens populations
  • Arctic Tern, Fulmar, Puffin endangered

New research warns that globally renowned seabird colonies surrounding the British Isles are on the verge of extinction.

In the past two years, avian influenza has caused “catastrophic” mortality for multiple species, including the Arctic Tern, Fulmar, and Puffin.

Currently, an investigation spearheaded by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) indicates that climate change is also anticipated to have enduring consequences for the majority of seabird species inhabiting Britain and Ireland, potentially surpassing the recent declines in population.

In the event of a warming scenario of 3.6°F (2°C) by 2050, certain species, including the Arctic Tern, Fulmar, and Puffin, may experience population declines exceeding 70% compared to their numbers observed at the beginning of the 21st century.

The findings, published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, indicate that species that specialize in marine environments—such as petrels, auks, and terns—are more vulnerable to threats than species that are more generalists and adaptive, like gulls.

According to the group, certain species might establish themselves in new regions of Great Britain and Ireland.

Nevertheless, the majority of conservationists caution that this will likely not be sufficient to offset population declines in breeding areas.

During the breeding season, seabird populations are generally lower in areas with higher air temperatures, according to the study. However, each seabird species exhibited distinct responses to various climatic conditions, both marine and terrestrial.

Climate Change Threatens Seabird Species in Britain and Ireland

The majority of seabird species in Britain and Ireland, however, will “struggle” due to the effects of rising air and sea temperatures, alterations in precipitation patterns, and other marine environment factors, according to the report.

Scientists warn that the alterations may potentially diminish the food supply for seabirds or heighten the probability of mortality caused by severe weather phenomena.

Lead author of the study Dr. Jacob Davies remarked, “Britain and Ireland are fortunate to be home to breeding colonies of seabirds that are of international significance.”

Our research indicates that climate change gravely imperils numerous beloved seabird species, including the Kittiwake and Puffin, making them especially vulnerable to the detrimental consequences of warming.

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In addition to the potential adverse consequences of climate change in the future, numerous seabirds are presently experiencing significant declines as a result of various factors such as overfishing and avian influenza.

“We will be in a better position to assist these iconic species the more we comprehend the challenges they encounter and the possible responses of birds to those challenges.”

Co-author of the study and senior marine ornithologist at the Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government, Dr. Rich Howells, further stated, “Climate change poses the gravest danger to our globally significant seabird populations.”

This study offers significant insights into the potential long-term consequences of climate change, which can be utilised to guide conservation efforts aimed at enhancing the resilience of seabird populations.

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