Daily Record


Experts say action needed to prevent extinction

- BY DAN VEVERS Environmen­t Reporter

SCOTLAND’s famous gannet colony on the Bass Rock has plummeted by nearly a third since 2014 in the wake of deadly bird flu.

The landmark off the coast of North Berwick, East Lothian, hosts the world’s largest northern gannet colony.

Using state-of-the-art drone imagery and other tools, researcher­s found numbers have dropped by 25 to 30 per cent in the last nine years.

It comes as avian influenza has ripped through the Scots seabird population­s in recent years, with gannets particular­ly badly hit.

The disease was confirmed on the Bass Rock in June 2022, at the height of the gannet breeding season, with thousands of birds killed. A colony count in June found the size of the gannet population had fallen from 75,000 “sites” – an area in a colony occupied by a single bird or pair – to about 55,000.

However, despite this major decline, the 2023 breeding season has shown hopeful signs of recovery, with no evidence of widespread deaths this summer.

The research was carried out by Edinburgh University’s school of geoscience­s, the Scottish Seabird Centre and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The study included drone surveys and machine learning trials as well as traditiona­l counting methods.

Dr Amy Tyndall and Tom Wade, of Edinburgh University, said: “We’ve been delighted with the performanc­e of the drone in the gannet colony. The data quality surpassed expectatio­ns and we were able to operate it without any disturbanc­e to the colony.

“The implementa­tion of the machine learning methods allowed a fast assessment of the colony and identified live, dead, nesting and flying gannets.”

Emily Burton, conservati­on officer at the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “We were devastated to see the impacts of avian flu on the Bass Rock colony during the 2022 breeding season.

“Many of our internatio­nally important seabirds are already affected by a range of pressures, including the impacts of climate change, invasive species, exploitati­on of the marine environmen­t and pollution.

“It is more important than ever for the Scottish Government to accelerate the production of its Scottish Seabird Conservati­on Strategy and prioritise actions that will restore and protect marine habitats. Without urgent action some of our most iconic seabirds could be extinct within 30 years.”

 ?? ?? AT RISK Northern gannets at Bass Rock. Pic: David Cheskin/PA
AT RISK Northern gannets at Bass Rock. Pic: David Cheskin/PA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom