Page last updated at 01:54 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Fears for future for UK seabirds

Seagulls
There are concerns over the future of certain types of seabirds

The outlook for several species of UK seabird is "dire", the RSPB has warned.

Data has shown widespread breeding failures for kittiwakes, Arctic terns and Arctic skuas.

There are concerns that climate change has reduced food supply which is affecting many species' ability to breed successfully.

Douglas Gilbert, an ecologist with RSPB Scotland, said unless conditions changed, the long-term future for the birds was "bleak".

Warmer sea temperatures, as a result of climate change, is believed to be affecting the amount of plankton in the sea and consequently numbers of the staple seabird prey, the sandeel.

Data from the RSPB's coastal reserves showed kittiwakes, Arctic terns and Arctic skuas suffered major collapses in breeding success in the north this year.

There were 65 pairs of kittiwakes on the Scottish mainland colony at Mull of Galloway, which is a reduction of half on 2005 levels.

Unless conditions change to allow these birds the chance of successful breeding, the long-term future for them is bleak
Douglas Gilbert
RSPB

A count at Copinsay reserve in Orkney recorded 1,881 pairs, a drop of 57% on 1999, while at North Hill 14 pairs were counted - a decline of 89% over the same period.

RSPB reserves on Shetland and Orkney have just 65 breeding pairs of Arctic skuas, with only three chicks fledging - meaning a breeding success rate of almost zero.

The conservation charity said that Arctic terns also seemed to be suffering serious long-term declines.

"RSPB reserves are acting as an indicator of the wider fortunes of seabirds around our coasts," Mr Gilbert said.

"The outlook for some species such as Arctic skua, kittiwake and Arctic tern is dire, and there are problems with other species like guillemots and puffins in some areas too.

"Unless conditions change to allow these birds the chance of successful breeding, the long-term future for them is bleak."

There was evidence this was linked to changes in sea surface temperatures, he added.

The RSPB is now calling for all UK administrations to put the environment at the centre of upcoming marine legislation, to ensure it helps wildlife such as seabirds.

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