Ocean Film Fest 2010: Can Studying Sea Birds Reveal Global Impacts of Climate Change? (Video)

arctic murre photo

Photo via lalouque via Flickr CC

Many researchers feel that sea birds could be the perfect species to study in order to see how climate change is affecting marine life on a large scale. In the film Arctic Cliffhangers, biologist and filmmaker Steve Smith travels along the eastern Canadian Arctic to talk with specialists who are tracking information about several cliff-dwelling species. Because their nesting is coordinated with arctic ice break-ups, and their feeding takes them as far as 500 kilometers out to sea, they have the ability to show us what is happening both on land and far out in the ocean depths.

Not only does the film look at sea birds in relation to climate change science, it also looks at the relationship humans in the area have with the birds for subsistence. For thousands of years they've been a protein source for people living in arctic regions, and even today they're a significant food source, illustrating the fragility of the food web.

While they seem to still be in abundance now, these flocks of arctic birds face a decline as the earth warms and pushes their habitat farther north, as well as changes their food source in the seas. Studying how they're faring teaches scientists how the planet is dealing with change.

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