Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 14:24 UK

Dolphin and whale climate fears

Dusky dolphins [Pic: Ingrid Visser/Orca Research]
Dolphins, porpoises and whales are said to be at increased risk

More dolphins, porpoises and whales could be at risk from the effects of climate change than was previously thought, a new study has claimed.

An Aberdeen University scientist said rising sea temperatures could affect 88% of areas where cetaceans are found.

Dr Colin MacLeod said areas of suitable habitat for many were likely to shrink, meaning fewer animals.

And he warned a decline in habitat could be so dramatic that it could increase the extinction risk for some.

Dr MacLeod, said: "In the past, the main concern was for the small number of polar species likely to be affected by a decline in sea ice. However, this new study shows that there are many more species to be worried about.

"Some species found in temperate waters may be at risk not just because of the water temperatures they live in, but also because they only live in shallow waters. These species cannot simply respond to increases in sea temperature by moving into cooler neighbouring areas if the waters there are too deep."

Future work planned by Dr MacLeod will use computer modelling aimed at providing a more detailed picture of how different species are likely to react to future changes in climate, to help assess how best to conserve whales, dolphins and porpoises around the world.

The study appears in the journal Endangered Species Research.

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