A disaster that should serve as a global warning

Share
Related Topics

The disaster that has befallen the seabird colonies of Shetland and Orkney is not only a terrible blow to the ecology of those small islands, but a warning that even the slightest nudge to the world's environmental balance can have catastrophic knock-on effects.

The guillemots, arctic terns, kittiwakes and all the species of bird which inhabit these islands have registered one of their worst breeding seasons in living memory. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has observed very few chicks on the breeding cliff ledges. It seems that almost all the great skuas have failed to produce young this year.

The most obvious cause of this breeding failure is the northward migration of sandeels, the small fish on which the birds feed. With their traditional food supply largely out of reach, the birds have been finding it increasingly difficult to feed their chicks. Observers fear this trend has culminated in a total breeding collapse.

The reasons for the sandeel migration are not yet fully established. Fishing patterns have not helped, and the Shetland Fishermen's Association has made an agreement with RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage to close the fishery in the south of Shetland. It is to be hoped that this will improve matters.

There are fears, however, that global warming could also be a factor. The RSPB now believes that changes in the climate caused the sandeels to move to colder waters further north. If this is true, it is a timely reminder of how unpredictable the effects of global warming are. The melting of the polar ice caps has been the subject of scientific discussion for some time but, as the experience of the birds of Orkney and Shetland demonstrates, there are myriad other ways in which global warming can imperil the environment.

A report printed in the science journal Nature earlier this year predicts that global warming could lead to the extinction of more than 1,000 species of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. The fate of the seabirds of Orkney and Shetland reminds us that we would be foolish to disregard such warnings.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’  

Children's TV shows like Grange Hill used to connect us to the real world

Grace Dent
An Indian bookseller waits for customers at a roadside stall on World Book and Copyright Day in Mumbai  

Novel translation lets us know what is really happening in the world

Boyd Tonkin
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine