Scot­land is hotspot for breed­ing seabirds

The Oban Times - - Outdoors -

WHEN Bri­tish seabirds aren’t on land, it is likely they are feed­ing in the coastal waters around Scot­land, new re­search has re­vealed.

A five-year project tracked more than 1,300 breed­ing seabirds and re­sults re­veal the ma­jor­ity of the ‘ hotspots’ are con­cen­trated in the coastal waters around Scot­land.

The study, headed by the RSPB in part­ner­ship with more than a dozen sci­en­tists from leading re­search in­sti­tutes, es­ti­mated the ar­eas used by four species: kit­ti­wakes, shags, ra­zor­bills and guille­mots.

Dr Ewan Wake­field, lead au­thor of the re­search, said: ‘Many seabirds are at the top of the ma­rine food web.

‘They feed on sand eels and other small fish but that prey is de­clin­ing be­cause of hu­man pres­sures, in­clud­ing cli­mate change. The re­sult is that thou­sands of seabird chicks are dy­ing each year be­cause their par­ents can’t feed them.

‘For the first time, this study pro­vides us with a full map for each breed­ing colony of the feed­ing ar­eas for some of our most im­por­tant seabird species.

‘That means we can now pro­tect the places these birds catch the fish they need to feed their hun­gry chicks, se­cur­ing the fate of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of these amaz­ing crea­tures.’

The in­for­ma­tion ob­tained could play a ma­jor role in help­ing to un­der­stand seabirds, as they are among the most en­dan­gered birds in the world.

El­lie Owen, who led on the track­ing work, said: ‘The sight and sound of hun­dreds of thou­sands of seabirds flock­ing to our shores is an amaz­ing nat­u­ral spec­ta­cle and some­thing that we must help pro­tect for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to en­joy. The meth­ods used in this study could be ap­plied to other seabird species, to show where they go at sea.

‘This will be an in­valu­able tool in help­ing to pro­tect seabirds, as it will im­prove our abil­ity to as­sess the likely im­pacts on breed­ing seabirds of off­shore wind farms, oil spills and other po­ten­tially harm­ful ac­tiv­i­ties in our in­creas­ingly in­dus­tri­alised seas.’

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