Researchers from the University of Exeter and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have found one bird species that won’t be affected by the much talked about the effects of climate change. According to the study, Giant petrels will temporarily benefit from the adversaries of global warming in the Antarctic. However, male and female giant petrels will be affected differently.
Experts suggest that the warm weather anomalies from the Antarctic will have a positive effect on the birds. Moreover, wind pattern changes will also foster their foraging abilities at the sea. However the two sexes will benefit differently from the change; males will dominate carrion access on land, they will also travel less far from their colony for foraging. This will result from the fact, that males are larger and heavier than females. Females, on the other hand, will benefit more from the stronger winds, this will allow them to fly and forage at sea effortlessly. Furthermore, the retreating sea ice will extend open waters for foraging.
“It is really difficult – but really important – to measure how the sexes of a species will respond to environmental changes, especially in species with strong sexual size dimorphism, like the giant petrels,” says Dr. Dimas Gianuca, one of the lead authors of the study. Gianuca also hinted on the downside in his statement. “Petrels are going to do relatively well due to the changes we expect to see in this region. The increased winds and other changes in the environment will be good for them. However, any future increase in longline fishing – which may well result in a greater risk of bycatch – is likely to impair the survival of females, which forage further north than males and, consequently interact more with poorly managed longline fishing in subtropical waters.”
Supported by analysis of 15 years of monitoring data, which holds information regarding the survival of giant petrels, along with inputs on breeding collected by BAS at Bird Island, South Georgia, the research project has showcased consequences of futuristic changes in environment and fishing.
The experts especially hinted on the temporary advantage to petrels through climate change. “Although warm conditions may benefit giant petrels, in the long term, persistent warm anomalies can lead to broader ecosystem disruptions in Antarctic food webs, and potentially a further reduction in krill stocks. This would lead to further population declines of South Georgia Antarctic fur seals and other species on which male giant petrels depend for food during the breeding season, therefore it will be bad for petrels too,” reports Dr Richard Sherley, of the University of Exeter.