Researchers at the University College Cork (UCC) have found that cloudy waters due to climate change are making it harder for seabirds to catch fish.
On Little Salty, a small island off the coast of Ireland, researchers attached tiny trackers to the fins of Max Shearwater. Objective of the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was to understand how underwater visibility affects a seabird’s ability to hunt fish and other prey. This is the first study to examine the effect of ocean clarity on the diving abilities of sea birds.
Oceans are cloudy due to climate change
Jamie Darby, a marine ecologist in the School of Biological Environment and Earth Sciences and the Marei Center at UCC, and lead author of the study, said, “The chemical and physical properties of the planet’s oceans are changing at an unnatural rate, posing challenges to for marine life. One consequence of climate change is that large areas of our oceans are becoming cloudy.”
Darby and the research team examined the diving patterns of the Black and White Manx shearwater in relation to local environmental conditions such as cloud cover and water clarity. More than 5000 different dives were recorded using publicly available databases, and a range of relevant information about weather patterns and sea conditions was collected.
struggle to find food
The study found that birds act deeper when sunlight can penetrate deeper into the water, suggesting that visibility is key to their ability to dive for food. As the planet warms and oceans become cloudier, the finding is important because it means seabirds will have to overcome this challenge.
“Our findings support the idea that birds need sufficient sunlight to be able to forage at depth. While this study examined one particular seabird. The results can be extended to other animals. Many Vision-dependent hunters may struggle to find food for themselves.Human activities are making the oceans more obscure, said Jamie Darby.
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