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Instant annihilation: new study shows the devastating impact of tropical cyclones on seabird colonies. Photo

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Seabird colonies threatened by tropical cyclones. Source: Pixabay

Scientists studying the impact of Cyclone Ilsa on seabirds have said that up to 90% of the birds could be lost "in the blink of an eye" in the future. After this particular storm hit Bedout Island in the western part of Australia in April 2023, several populations declined by 80-90%.

According to a new study, an increase in the number of tropical cyclones due to global warming could lead to a sharp decline in seabird populations. The results of the observations were published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.

The level of losses could be unsustainable for populations as the frequency and intensity of cyclones increases due to global warming, and extreme winds, heavy rains and huge waves disrupt their breeding cycles. Seabirds are crucial for the conservation of tropical reefs. Scientists warn that the loss of birds could put further pressure on ecosystems.

Jennifer Lavers, the author of the study, said that Bedout is a small island in a remote area of Australia, but this particular location can demonstrate the results needed to study the consequences. Studies of the area over three months make it clear that recovery will be slow and likely to be interrupted by the next cyclone.

Instant annihilation: new study shows the devastating impact of tropical cyclones on seabird colonies. Photo

"More than 20,000 birds were lost in an instant," she said.

The researchers used aerial and ground surveys to estimate mortality of three species: Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster), the Lesser Frigatebird (Fregata ariel), and an endemic subspecies of Brown Booby (Sula dactylatra bedouti). This happened within a few months after the storm.

At least 20,000 birds died on the 17-hectare Bedout Island, mostly breeding adults. The Bedout's shearwater is not found anywhere else. The example of this island, according to experts, has wider significance for seabirds around the world.

Bedout

While tropical cyclones have a serious impact on wildlife populations, including seabirds, they are a normal occurrence. It is predicted that they will become more frequent and stronger in the face of warming, which will disrupt the ability of seabird populations to recover.

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