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Scientists say Arctic birds adapting to climate change

August 26, 2019/ 07:34

Moscow. Russian scientists together with experts from Norway’s University of Tromso have concluded that Arctic birds of prey, like the rough-legged buzzard, also called the rough-legged hawk - over the past two decades have adapted to the shift in the population of rodents, caused by global warming. Rather than lemmings, the birds now prefer eating voles, which have risen in number, the press service of Russia’s Ministry of Science and Education reported.

"Specialists from the Institute of Ecology of Plants and Animals, the Urals branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, jointly with partners from Norway studied how the rough-legged buzzard’s demography had changed in response to the transformation in the biodiversity and dynamics of small rodents," the press service said. "Material for the report was collected at the Yerkuta research station in southern Yamal between 1999 and 2017."

During the monitoring period, Russian scientists observed that the density of the birds’ nests diminished by 66%, while the number of rodents saw a six-fold drop. Over the past 20 years, the Siberian lemming popuation disappeared from the Yamal Peninsula. The number of the collared lemmings has plunged more than ten-fold, and the populations of other rodents fell five-fold. Thus, the scientists say, the share of lemmings has contracted, while the amount of voles has grown.

"The rough-legged buzzards clearly preferred to eat lemmings. The density of their nests depended positively on the high population of rodents, but the changes in the rodents’ biodiversity have resulted in fewer nests of those birds," the press service said. "However, the scientists have come to the conclusion that recently the number of nestlings in nests has been growing, which means the birds have adapted to the changes in their main food resource."

The article on the research will be published by the Global Change Biology magazine, informs TASS.

The Arctic is facing a rapid warming process, and the average temperature by end of the 21st century may rise by 11 degrees. As a result, an indirect effect from climate change is often seen in modified food chains.


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