Flying into trouble? Research and conservation action must be better linked to protect seabirds in the face of climate change - Zoological Society London

New ZSL-led study shows how latest knowledge of climate change threats could be better connected with conservation action to protect seabirds and other at-risk species.

Seabirds such as kittiwakes and puffins are being put at higher risk from a disconnection between conservation efforts on the ground, and research on climate change threats. However, a new study led by ZSL (Zoological Society London)’s Institute of Zoology, says that better integration of the two is possible to safeguard biodiversity.

Seabirds represent one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world with almost half of all species in decline. They are also significantly directly and indirectly threatened by climate change, such as from heatwaves, extreme wind and rain, and changes in food availability in response to changing climatic conditions which mean lack of fish in particular for chicks during the nesting season.

The authors of the new study published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology, show that climate change threats highlighted by European seabird conservation groups are often poorly understood, and that there are several threats highlighted by researchers and conservation groups without clear conservation actions in response. In fact, almost a third (29%) of possible conservation interventions aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change, are linked to conflicting evidence or a lack of information to make solid conclusions about how effective they are.

Leading conservation experts working on the study, including ZSL, Cambridge University, BirdLife International, RSPB and the IUCN Climate Change Specialist Group say that stronger integration is possible and propose a framework to link research and management that could also be applied to other species too.

Lead author and ZSL Institute of Zoology post-doctoral fellow, Henry Hakkinen said: “There is a real opportunity here to identify missing information and marry existing research on the risks of climate change with effective conservation and wildlife management. "Through our work we have identified several climate change threats and conservation actions which are well understood, but also several threats that are poorly understood and several actions that have very limited or mixed evidence on their effectiveness. Seabirds in Europe are heavily researched and receive quite a lot of conservation attention. They are also heavily impacted by climate change, so are a good species group to start with. These gaps urgently need addressing if we want to work out how we can best help seabirds adapt to climate change and survive."

A series of surveys were sent to more than 180 seabird conservation practitioners across Western Europe. The team identified major knowledge gaps and began tallying up some of the ways in which conservation action could address some of the major threats posed to the species by climate change.

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Posted On: 09/03/2022

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