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Global warming kills puffin chicks
Climate change threatens the survival prospects of certain sea birds. A small increase in the ocean temperature can starve three-quarters of their clutch.
Since 2005, the puffin populations on the Breton cliffs as well as in the Scottish Hebrides and the Lofoten islands in Norway have been in ‘free-fall’. This is due to the winter warming of the surface waters of the neighbouring seas where sand eels – the main source of food for puffin chicks – reproduce. A small increase in the temperature of marine waters is enough to disrupt the development of the eels’ eggs and the decrease in the population of adult eels deprives the puffin chicks of the main part of the nutrients that are critical for their growth and survival. The parents try to substitute the missing eels with such other fish as the pipefish. The population of this species is gradually spreading northwards by following the warming waters. Unfortunately, the chicks are incapable of digesting them because of the hardness of their scales and their prickly fish bones, meaning they eventually succumb to starvation or malnutrition. Consequently, in 2007, only one-quarter of the puffin eggs in the Scottish Islands resulted in adult birds.
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