Warmer summers challenging for Arctic seabirds: Scientists

Last Updated: Thursday, March 25, 2010 - 19:13

Washington: Warmer, wetter summers in the
Arctic due to climate change are making survival difficult for
various seabirds nesting in the area, as they are uniquely
adapted to cool, dry summers, Canadian scientists have said.

"It`s not really a surprise," said Mark Mallory, a
biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Iqaluit.

"If a bird is adapted to cold conditions and you make
things warmer, predictably they`ll find things harder,"
Mallory said.

A team of Canadian scientists, including Mallory, spent
over 7,000 days observing birds in the North -- from northern
Hudson Bay to Devon Island.

The team tracked the unusual ways in which Arctic
seabirds are dying and predicted that a warming climate is
resulting into serious consequences for these birds.

They recorded their observations about six species of
birds on 11 different seabird colonies.

The study, that appears in Arctic -- the journal of the
Arctic Institute of North America, says that typical causes of
these seabirds death include crashing into each other or
cliffs during heavy fog, being slammed into the ocean by
Katabatic winds or dying from a combination of heat stress
and blood loss due to mosquito attacks.

About his experience in the North, Mallory wrote: "I was
working at a fulmar colony -- a species of birds that are
phenomenal flyers -- and after a couple of days of fog we`d
see fulmars on the sea ice, alive but with their wings broken.

"My guides told me that they had seen this a lot, and
thought that the birds flew into each other in low
visibility," Mallory said.

"Arctic seabirds don`t do well in really heavy, wet
snowfall. Chicks hatch in early August and they expect it to
be dry and cool. They can`t handle soaking wet for very long,
even if it is warmer," he added.

These birds have adapted to past climate shifts, but
those changes have occurred over long periods of time. It
might be difficult for them to adjust to the rapid changes now
underway, he said.

Warmer temperatures in the Arctic are bringing more storm
events, including incidents of heavy fog, rain, freezing rain,
wet snow and stronger winds in the region that is creating
problems for nesting seabirds.

Mortality studies in seabirds focus on birds in tropical
or temperate regions where `normal` causes of death include
population decline due to fishery collapse, ecto-parasites
like ticks, introduced predators such as rats, and storms at
sea.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, March 25, 2010 - 19:13

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