The 70 percent drop in the seabird’s population since 1950 is a stark indication that the marine ecosystems are not doing well, says the UBC research.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia have compiled information on more than 500 seabird populations from around the world, representing 19 percent of the global seabird population.
During the research, they found that overall populations had declined by 69.6 percent, equivalent to a loss of about 230 million birds in 60 years.
Author Michelle Paleczny said that seabirds are particularly good indicators of the health of marine ecosystems and when they saw this magnitude of seabird decline; they saw that there is something wrong with marine ecosystems.
The dramatic decline is caused by a variety of factors, including overfishing of the fish seabirds rely on for food, birds getting tangled in fishing gear, plastic and oil pollution, introduction of non-native predators to seabird colonies, destruction and changes to seabird habitat, and environmental and ecological changes caused by climate change.
Seabirds tend to travel the world’s oceans foraging for food over their long lifetimes and return to the same colonies to breed. Colony population numbers provide information to scientists about the health of the oceans the birds call home.
Paleczny said that their work demonstrates the strong need for increased seabird conservation effort internationally as loss of seabirds causes a variety of impacts in coastal and marine ecosystems.
The study is published in the Journal PLOS ONE.