Warmer summers challenging for Arctic seabirds: Scientists
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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.


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

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