New research from the University of Sheffield has shown that major oil spills and a changing climate have had a far greater impact on populations of British sea birds than was previously thought.
A team led by Professor Tim Birkhead from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, shows for the first time that major oil spills double the mortality rate of adult guillemots in Britain, even though the pollution occurs hundreds of miles from the birds’ breeding grounds. The research, which is to be published in the November issue of Ecology Letters also shows a direct link between a warmer climate in the North Atlantic and a higher mortality rate among British guillemots.
Professor Birkhead’s long-term guillemot study has been carried out on Skomer Island, Wales, since 1972. The length of the ongoing study has allowed the research team to study the effects of a number of serious winter oil spills on the guillemot population. Their findings show that highly publicised oil spills in southern Europe, such as the Prestige oil tanker disaster off the coast of Galicia, Spain, in November 2002, have far-reaching consequences on seabirds breeding far from the scene of the initial pollution.
Lynne Miller | alfa
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