Reply To: Global warming threatens biodiversity

Around 10 per cent of the world population of Balearic shearwaters has visited UK inshore waters this summer and autumn, with more than 1,200 birds being recorded from just one watchpoint near Land’s End in Cornwall.

The survey builds upon new research recently published in the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters, which highlights global warming as a key driver behind the upsurge in UK Balearic shearwater sightings.

Dr Wynn and colleagues showed how northeast Atlantic sea surface temperatures rose by 0.6 degrees Celsius in the mid-1990s, triggering a northwards shift in the Balearic shearwater’s prey fish species and with it the birds that feed on them.

‘Just 20 years ago Balearic shearwaters were scarce visitors to South West waters, but they are now regularly recorded from headlands throughout the UK. Since 2003 we have even started seeing birds staying throughout the winter off Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, which is a completely new phenomenon linked to elevated winter sea temperatures,’ said Dr Wynn.

Dr Wynn added: ‘Climate change is often perceived to be a future threat, but the reality for our marine fauna is that it is happening now. Species towards the top of the food chain are having to respond very rapidly in order to survive, and some are going to be pushed to extinction if they fail’.

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