Whether we like to admit it or not, climate change is gradually making its presence felt throughout the world. It’s latest confirmed effect is that it led to the death of thousands of seabird deaths due to the warming of the Pacific water which in turn affected the fish the birds eat to survive.
Last year, scientists revealed that several thousand common murres, a prevalent North Pacific seabird, were found starved on the eastern shores of the United States, from California to Alaska. Since then, scientists have been trying to explain how that situation came to be.
Now, scientists believe that the elevated temperatures of the Pacific water affected not only the seabirds but whole marine ecosystems. However, the common murres are an indicator of the overall health of the region. The explanation consists in the fact that because fish populations are gradually declining, seabirds and other animals have nothing to eat which leads to starvation.
While the effect of the warm Pacific water affects two major marine ecosystems along the US’ West Coast and Canada, the deaths of the seabirds also were also multiplied due to winter storms in the Gulf of Alaska.
The birds have fast-acting metabolism meaning that they have to eat a lot of to maintain their body mass. This also leads the birds to drop to the critical threshold for starvation in only just three days. The favorite prey of the seabirds includes small fish like pollock, capelin, which are also used in the fast-food industry in fish sandwiches. Their populations were extremely low in number during a survey taken in the summer of 2015.
As a result of the depleting food source, around 52,000 common murres were found dead throughout the West Coast, with 46,000 just in Alaska alone. To make matters worse, scientists believe that this number of deaths represent only a small fraction of the casualties, most of which never reached the shore. Some scientists estimate that around 500,000 common murres died in that period. The birds likely died from excruciating deaths, either starvation or drowning.
What do you think about this situation? Should we take more drastic action against climate change to prevent other similar situations?
Image source: Wikimedia
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