Poor Ocean Health Reflected in Declining Seabird Populations

Written by on July 16, 2015 in Marine Life, Other Marine Life

New research from the University of British Columbia is the first to show that seabird populations around the globe are declining.

Black-browed albatross.

Black-browed albatross. Photo credit: NOAA Corps.

The more than 500 monitored seabird populations have dropped by 70 percent since the 1950s. This is bad news for the oceans, because seabirds are often an indicator of the overall health of marine ecosystems.

“When we see this magnitude of seabird decline, we can see there is something wrong with marine ecosystems,” Michelle Paleczny, a UBC master’s student, explained in a news release. “It gives us an idea of the overall impact we’re having.”

The seabirds that Paleczny and co-authors studied represented 19 percent of the global seabird population. They found that populations have dropped by 70 percent (that’s 230 million birds) over the last 60 years. Causes of this dramatic decline include pollution, overfishing of seabirds’ preferred prey and entanglement in fishing gear, habitat destruction, and climate change.

In addition to indicating the state of ocean health, seabirds are also a vital part of ocean health. They play a key role in the marine food web and transport nutrients from the ocean where they feed back to coastal lands where they breed.

“Our work demonstrates the strong need for increased seabird conservation effort internationally,” said Paleczny. “Loss of seabirds causes a variety of impacts in coastal and marine ecosystems”

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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