Iceland's Seabird Colonies Are Vanishing, With "Massive" Chick Deaths

puffins, kittiwakes, and terns

Iceland is home to the world's largest Atlantic puffin colony, but the birds' breeding has been a "total failure" since 2005.

Half of Iceland's seabirds nest on this low-lying volcanic outcropping and its neighboring islands...

Flatey Island used to be covered with chicks ...

But the nests have gone empty in the past few years, and colonies throughout the North Atlantic are shrinking. Warming oceans and earlier thaws are driving away the seabirds' prey; unleashing deadly, unseasonal storms; and knocking tight breeding schedules off-kilter. Mounting carbon dioxide absorption and melting glaciers are acidifying and diluting the aquatic balance, jeopardizing marine life and the creatures that depend on it for food.

Alarmed scientists have returned from fieldwork throughout the North Atlantic with sobering descriptions of massive chick die-offs and colonies abandoned with eggs still in the nests. "Mass mortality of kittiwakes is evident,"...

And in the Arctic tern colonies she's studied, "there are just dead chicks everywhere,"...

On Flatey Island, the once-prolific terns haven't produced viable chicks in a decade. And on the Westman Islands off Iceland's south coast—home to the world's largest Atlantic puffin colony—breeding has been a "total failure" since 2005, ...

Similar trends are reported in Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, and across the circumpolar north—the principal nursery for Northern Hemisphere marine birds.

... reproductive failures have been going on for so long now that scientists say it's just a matter of time before the adults, too, are gone.

Now researchers are struggling to comprehend the catastrophic breeding failure and its implications for an ecosystem that is fundamental to the planet's health.

The cold waters of the North Atlantic are a major driving force for the Earth's weather and among the most productive fisheries in the world, so the birds' problems could indicate trouble for the region's major industry and the global food supply.

These same problems are now being noted in wading birds like the redshank, shorebirds like the red knot, and other waterfowl in the northern United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere.

"What is happening in Iceland, we see happening in so many other areas in the North Atlantic. And the fact that we're seeing them over such a wide area points to a common factor ... and that is climate change,"... [emphasis mine]

While this article describes massive chick deaths, it's illustrated with photos of healthy bird colonies.

"Not only do you have to provide your field assistants with food and shelter, but also some psychological help after many, many days of collecting dead chicks."

Yet an internet search revealed not one photo of this carnage. Why aren't researchers on the ground sharing pictures of this with the public? How do they expect the public to take this disaster seriously if they "tell" truth while "showing" a happy lie?

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Replies to This Discussion

"Why aren't researchers on the ground sharing pictures of this with the public?" Good question! That would indeed have an impact on people's primitive brains, beyond what words alone can do.

(I appreciate the compelling illustrations you create for many of your postings!)




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