Overfishing and climate change push seabirds to extinction
Overfishing and climate change are pushing some of the world’s most iconic seabirds to the brink of extinction, according to a new report.
The study reveals that kittiwakes and gannets are among a number of seabirds that have now joined the red list of under-threat birds drawn up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Dr Ian Burfield, global science coordinator at Birdlife International which carried out the study for IUCN, said the threat to these birds pointed to a wider environmental challenge.
“Birds are well studied and great indicators of the health of the wider environment. A species at higher risk of extinction is a worrying alarm call that action needs to be taken now.”
The study found that overfishing and changes in the Pacific and north Atlantic caused by climate change have affected the availability of sand eels which black-legged kittiwakes feed on during the breeding season.
This has caused “disastrous chick survival rates”, it says, with nesting kittiwake numbers plummeting by 87% since 2000 on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and by 96% on the Hebridean island of St Kilda.
Globally, the species is thought to have declined by about 40% since the 1970s, justifying its move from the “least concern” category to “vulnerable” on the Red List.
“The alarming decline of the black-legged kittiwake and other North Atlantic and Arctic seabirds, such as the Atlantic puffin, provides a painful lesson in what happens when nations take an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to conservation,” said Marguerite Tarzia, European marine conservation officer for BirdLife International.
The study also found that the number of Cape gannets – which breed around Namibia and South Africa – has dropped 50% since the 1950s as food stocks dwindle from overfishing and climate change.
The study also found that the yellow-breasted bunting, once super-abundant, has declined by 80% since 2002, putting it in the highest category, “critically endangered”. It blames illegal trapping in China.
In the North American Arctic, the report found the snowy owl population is much smaller than previously thought and in rapid decline. It said climate change, which has caused snow to melt and reduce rodent cover, was one the key factors.
However, the study did find some positive trends. The Dalmatian pelican has seen its numbers increase in Europe thanks to the introduction of artificial nesting rafts and disturbance prevention. In New Zealand two species of kiwi are more numerous to the control of predators and a programme of egg rearing.
Burfield said: “Thankfully success in kiwi and pelican conservation shows that, when well resourced and supported, conservation efforts really do pay off.”
via Guardian Environment http://bit.ly/2rMakBX
December 11, 2017 at 10:12PM