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Seabirds face climate change catastrophe

The kittiwake faces extinction in the northern isles if current climate trends continue. Photo Ian Jackson

BIRD charity RSPB Scotland is joining the growing clamour for efforts to tackle climate change to be “redoubled” as scientists repeat their warnings of the impact on wildlife, including Shetland’s world famous seabirds.

The charity suggests that if current trends continue then some species such as the kittiwake will become extinct around the northern isles.

On Monday the International Panel on Climate Change published its latest 2,600 page report on the threat climate change poses to the environment, wildlife and humanity.

RSPB Scotland responded by calling on governments to take “urgent action” to cut greenhouse gas emissions and halt the damage caused to vital wildlife and ecosystems.

The charity said scientists believe climate change lies behind the steep decline in seabirds, such as the kittiwake, whose numbers have fallen by 90 per cent in the northern isles.

Other species have been in steady decline for the past 25 years, including puffins, guillemots and arctic terns, due to the shortage of sandeels.

Scientists believe that warmer sea temperatures are affecting the abundance and quality of sandeels around the northern isles and other parts of Scotland, weakening birds and making it harder for them to raise their chicks.

Recent storms that have killed thousands of seabirds wintering in the north Atlantic have also been blamed on climate change.

RSPB Scotland's senior climate change policy officer Jim Densham

RSPB Scotland’s senior climate policy officer Jim Densham said: “The IPCC report powerfully backs up what we know about the changes that are already affecting Scotland’s natural heritage.

“Some of our most special wildlife and habitats are suffering now from the impacts of a changing climate.

“The report is a wake up call for all governments, including our own, to redouble efforts to halt climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of our economy and society.

“The report also highlights that we must take decisive action to adapt to a changing climate. Our wildlife needs our help if it is to adapt and survive the changes – changes which we have caused.

“This will need everyone – from government to each citizen – to take the threat seriously and to act.

“We must intervene to help nature where it is struggling now and where it will be challenged in the future. We must invest in our countryside, to make habitats healthy and resilient places, up to scratch for wildlife.

“This investment can also pay back for us because a healthier environment can provide clean water, flood protection, food and many other benefits that we will need in a future Scotland.”