Puffin nesting sites in western Europe could be lost by end of century

Experts create guide to help save seabirds from bleak future caused by global heating
2022-12-08 12:01

The majority of puffin nesting sites in western Europe are likely to be lost by the end of the century due to climate breakdown, a report has warned.

Other seabirds will also be affected unless urgent action to limit global heating is taken, with razorbills and arctic terns forecast to lose 80% and 87% of their breeding grounds respectively owing to reduced food accessibility and prolonged periods of stormy weather.

Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the University of Cambridge have put together a guide to how the birds can be protected from worsening conditions, using the expertise of 80 conservationists and policymakers across 15 European countries.

The first-of-its kind guidance gives tips on how to protect 47 species that breed along the Atlantic coastline. It assesses species-specific needs and gives actions needed to preserve each one.

It details how birds could be relocated to safer locations as climate breakdown causes heatwaves and plummeting fish populations. For example, puffins can be successfully encouraged into new breeding sites by placing model birds in them, and gulls can be drawn to manmade nesting platforms.

Henry Häkkinen, a ZSL Institute of Zoology postdoctoral fellow who led the production of the guidelines, said: “It is unthinkable that the Atlantic puffin, one of Europe’s most treasured seabirds, could disappear from our shores by the end of the century alongside other important marine bird species.

“These birds face double the challenges as they breed on land but rely on the sea for survival; by living across these two worlds, they are essential to both ecosystems and give us a glimpse into the health of wildlife in otherwise hard to monitor areas of the ocean, meaning their loss would impact countless other species and their conservation.”

The project leader, Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, a ZSL senior research fellow, added: “These seabird conservation guidelines – and the process behind them – provide a vital and transferable framework that can help align efforts to prioritise and implement evidence-based climate change adaptation practices to safeguard a future for the species most at risk.

“The time to act is now if we are to buffer species from the impacts of climate change.”