New research from the University of British Columbia is the first to show that seabird populations around the globe are declining.
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”
To learn more:
- Read the UBC news release: Global trends show seabird populations dropped 70 per cent since 1950s.
- Read the study abstract: Population Trend of the World’s Monitored Seabirds, 1950-2010.
Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.