Big crash in Puffin population
by Alan Harten
July 2, 2009
Most people can recognize a puffin by its stubby short beak, but the puffin may be a barometer by which we can judge the effects of climate change on the nation’s seas. The puffin has been declining in population severely over the past few years and by the end of last year the number of puffins found in the North Sea colonies crashed by almost a third. According to further studies, in the last eight years the seabird population has fallen by 40%.
Puffins are now traced using mini tracking devices throughout the British Isles. Additionally, the puffins that live on the Farne Islands which are located 50 miles from the cost of Newcastle are now being fitted with special gadgets that can help trace the patterns and decline in population to help scientists determine what is behind their rapid decline in numbers.
The devices will trace the behaviour patterns of the birds and monitor their breeding and feeding patterns while they travel over the seas for winter. The device is known as a geolocator and straps onto the Puffin’s foot.
Along with climate change, a corresponding change in a scarcity of food is thought to be behind the population decrease. Puffins feed mainly off of sand-eel, a thin sliver fish, which lives in the seas the Puffin roams but has also been declining in number due to plankton changes and over-fished areas.
The devices will closely monitor where Puffins feed regularly so that conservationists can attempt to protect these areas to help protect the species.
The farther Puffins have to travel from their breeding grounds the more energy they consume making it harder to feed their offspring.
Outside of food scarcity, scientists also believe that a change in wind temperatures may have caused the seas to cool at the wrong time affecting the breeding season of the Puffin negatively.
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