Seabirds are Impacted by Climate Change: The Endangered Guillemot May be in Trouble

First Posted: Jun 01, 2015 06:50 AM EDT

Climate change is continuing to heat things up. Now, scientists have taken a closer look at how seabirds are impacted by changing temperatures.

Until recently, researchers used a specific set of methods to study the relationship between animals and climate change, one of which is the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) index. This measures differences in air pressure between Portugal and Iceland. If not correlation was found here, then scientists refuted that climate change was causing changes. Yet this is overly simple, and researchers are now taking a closer look at the phenomenon of climate change.

In this latest study, the researchers used traditional methods from climate research in order to study how animals are being impacted by climate change. In particular, they studied the distribution of the common guillemot, a seabird similar to penguins. This endangered species can be found in Norway and there are only about 15,000 breeding pairs left in the wild.

In the winter of 1986 to 1987, something strange happened to the population of these birds. Many of these birds were found starving and dead at sea. They found that due to high pressure, there was less upwelling of water in the ocean. This meant that food and nutrients were not available for fish, fish stocks declined, and the guillemot population suffered.

"The findings we have made here may be relevant to climate change in the future, resulting in more or fewer birds," said Michel Mesquita, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This is part of the research we are working on going forwards. We observe that climate change can lead to a decline in animal populations."

The findings reveal that in the coming years, these bird populations may be in danger. In the coming years, the researchers hope to refine predictions and use climate models to make predictions about populations in the ecosystem.

The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

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