[04-01-2012 to 31-01-2013]
Seabirds suffer when ocean food falls below a critical level
An international group of scientists co-led by the University of St Andrews has shown that many seabirds begin to suffer when the food available for them in the ocean declines below a critical level. This level is about one-third of the maximum amount of food available. They have shown that this critical level is about the same for seabirds wherever they happen to be in the world.
Their study – the most comprehensive ever undertaken - covers birds from the Arctic to the Antarctic and from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
The research, to be published in the journal Science on 23 December 2011, involved scientists from around the world and was co-led by Professor Ian Boyd, Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews.
The study focussed upon seabirds that feed mainly on fish like sardines, anchovies and sandeels. These are often key species in marine ecosystems that are sometimes also exploited by fishers. In the Antarctic these fish species are replaced by krill which are like small shrimps. The researchers used data collected from 14 species including guillemots, gannets, skuas, terns, puffins, penguins and a species of gull. Their success at producing chicks was measured over periods of 15 up to 47 years and the team related this to the abundance of their main fish food in the region around their breeding colonies. The study gathered 438 years of observations, which constitutes one of the most comprehensive global databases ever assembled for a predator and its prey.
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