Dying and lifeless seabirds on Alaska coast expose rising threats of local weather change:


Dead and dying seabirds collected on the coasts of the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas over the previous six years reveal how the Arctic’s fast-changing local weather is threatening the ecosystems and individuals who reside there, based on a report launched Tuesday by U.S. scientists.

Local communities have reported quite a few emaciated our bodies of seabirds — together with shearwaters, auklets and murres — that often eat plankton, krill or fish, however seem to have had issue discovering adequate meals. The tons of of distressed and lifeless birds are solely a fraction of ones that starved, scientists say.

“Since 2017, we’ve had multi-species seabird die-offs in the Bering Strait region,” stated Gay Sheffield, a biologist at University of Alaska Fairbanks, who relies in Nome, Alaska, and a co-author of the report. “The one commonality is emaciation, or starvation.”

The seabirds are struggling due to climate-linked ecosystem shifts — which might have an effect on the availability and the timing of obtainable meals — in addition to a dangerous algal bloom and a viral outbreak within the area, she stated.

And their peril jeopardizes the human communities, as nicely: “Birds are essential to our region — they are nutritionally and economically essential,” stated Sheffield.

The information on seabirds is a part of an annual report launched by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, referred to as the “Arctic Report Card,” that paperwork adjustments in a area warming sooner than wherever else on Earth.

“With climate change, the food chain is changing rapidly,” stated Don Lyons, a conservation scientist on the National Audubon Society’s Seabird Institute, who was not concerned within the report. “Food isn’t predictable in the way it used to be, in terms of where the food is, at different times of the year.”

While seabirds naturally expertise some lean years, the report paperwork a worrying sample, stated Lyons. “It seems like we’ve passed a tipping point — we’ve moved into a new regime where events that we used to think of as rare and unusual are now common and frequent,” the scientist defined.

Arctic Report Card
In this Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 file photograph, lifeless frequent murres lie washed up on a rocky seaside in Whittier, Alaska. Arctic seabirds unable to seek out sufficient meals in hotter ocean waters are only one signal of the huge adjustments within the polar area, the place the local weather is being remodeled sooner than wherever else on Earth.

Mark Thiessen / AP

In the previous 12 months, Arctic annual floor air temperatures had been the sixth warmest since information started in 1900, the report discovered, with the final six years collectively accounting for the warmest documented interval in historical past. And satellite tv for pc information revealed that, for a number of weeks final summer time, massive areas close to the North Pole had been nearly away from sea ice. 

Authors of the most recent Arctic Report Card highlighted the continued sample of dying seabirds, which, per the report, correlates to warming temperatures seen during the last six years. Summarizing the report’s findings, they famous that, “communities in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi Sea region reported higher-than-expected seabird die-offs for the sixth consecutive year. Tracking the duration, geographic extent, and magnitude of seabird bird die-offs across Alaska’s expansive and remote coastline is only possible through well-coordinated communication and a dedicated network of Tribal, State, and Federal partners.

As environmental scientists have pointed out before, the new annual report showed that the Arctic continued to warm at a pace more than twice as fast as the rest of the globe, with more dramatic changes observed in certain locations and during different times of the year. Lower-than-average sea ice recorded this year was similar to the amount observed in 2021, according to the report, and sea surface temperatures collected across most ice-free regions of the Arctic Ocean followed an ongoing upward trend in temperatures. 

“The sea ice extent was a lot decrease than long-term common,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice expert at the University of Colorado Boulder and a co-author of the report.

“The most notable factor we noticed was through the summer time, we noticed numerous open-water areas up close to the North Pole, which was as soon as very uncommon,” he said. “Several kilometers with little or no or no ice, inside a pair hundred kilometers of the North Pole.”

“The adjustments which are occurring within the Arctic are so quick and so profound,” said Peter Marra, a conservation biologist at Georgetown University, who was not involved in the report.

Seabirds are metaphorical canaries in the coal mines, when it comes to showing broader ecosystem changes, Marra said, adding, “We must do a significantly better job of monitoring these sentinel populations.”


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