Climate change is causing albatross DIVORCE: Birds known for monogamy are splitting up as warming waters force males to travel further for food, study finds

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  • University of Lisbon-led experts study albatrosses on New Island, Falklands
  • He spent 15 years monitoring the interactions within five sub-colonies of birds.
  • The birds had an average divorce rate of about 3.7 percent, the team found.
  • But it rose to eight percent in years with warmer ocean temperatures.

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Climate change is boosting divorce rates among notoriously monogamous albatrosses, such as hot water Forcing men to travel more for food.

That’s the conclusion of a study led by researchers at the University of Lisbon, who spent 15 years studying black-browed albatrosses in the Falklands.

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Typically, only 3.7 percent of birds become separated from their chosen mate—a part of the ways in which they occur in the wake of a failed attempt to produce offspring.

Yet this figure rises to eight percent when water temperatures are elevated, with pairs separated even after a successful previous breeding season.

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Researchers have proposed two possible explanations for how warm ocean temperatures may increase albatross divorce rates.

The first is that males – forced to hunt for long periods of time and fly further – are not returning to their breeding grounds in time in warm years, and so females tend to overtake.

Alternatively, difficult conditions and a lack of food can increase the level of stress hormones in birds, causing even successful pairings to be viewed negatively.

In view of this, female albatrosses may elect to try their luck with a different mate the following year, in the misguided hope that a change will make for easier breeding.

Climate change is fueling divorce rates among notoriously monogamous albatrosses, as warmer waters force males to travel further for food. Pictured: a breeding pair

dark brown albatross

Species: Thalassarchae melanophrys

Length: 31-37″ (80-95cm)

Wingspan: 79-94″ (200-240cm)

Natural Lifespan: 70 years

Category: Southern Ocean

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The study was carried out by biologist Francesco Ventura of the University of Lisbon and his colleagues.

‘In many socially monogamous species, divorce is a strategy used to correct for sub-optimal partnerships and is informed by measures of past reproductive performance,’ the researchers wrote in their paper.

‘The environment affects the productivity and survival of populations, thus indirectly influencing divorce through changes in demographic rates.

‘However, whether environmental fluctuations directly control the prevalence of divorce in a population is less understood.’

Since 2003, researchers have been collecting data on the black-browed albatross population, which breeds on New Island in the Falklands, totaling about 15,500 bird pairs.

The team focused on five different sub-colonies, with each study patch recording annual encounters between breeding birds’ nests, as well as identifying non-breeding birds entering the same area .

Individual birds were identified by tagging the rings placed around their legs.

The researchers also tracked the fate of each egg and chick.

The team confirmed that albatross couples were more likely to divorce in the wake of reproductive failure, with the birds electing to have new partners in the next breeding season.

Specifically, female albatrosses – which tend to initiate break-ups – were 5.4 times more likely to split with their mates if their eggs failed to hatch.

However, the team also found that despite previous breeding performance, albatross divorce rates increased over years with warmer sea surface temperature anomalies, reaching 8 percent of all breeding pairs.

‘Therefore, environmentally-induced divorce may represent an overlooked consequence of global change,’ warn the researchers.

Typically, only 3.7 percent of birds become separated from their chosen mate—a part of the ways in which they occur in the wake of a failed attempt to produce offspring.  Yet this figure rises to 8 percent when water temperatures are elevated – even after a successful last breeding season the pairs are separated.  Pictured: A breeding pair of black-and-brown albatrosses

Typically, only 3.7 percent of birds become separated from their chosen mate—a part of the ways in which they occur in the wake of a failed attempt to produce offspring. Yet this figure rises to 8 percent when water temperatures are elevated – even after a successful last breeding season the pairs are separated. Pictured: A breeding pair of black-and-brown albatrosses

Since 2003, researchers have been collecting data on black-and-brown albatross populations that breed on New Island in the Falklands – home to some 15,500 bird pairs.

Since 2003, researchers have been collecting data on black-and-brown albatross populations that breed on New Island in the Falklands – home to some 15,500 bird pairs.

While albatross populations in the Falkland Islands are not currently threatened, it is possible that rising temperatures in the future could bring problems for smaller populations in other regions.

Current climate change is also affecting other species that typically choose long-term mates, the researchers warned.

The team concludes, ‘We argue that examining divorce adopting a temporal perspective may provide important insights into the role of the environment on divorce in other socially monogamous avian and mammalian populations.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B,

How will climate change affect our oceans?

According to the National Ocean Service, climate change will contribute to ocean acidification.

This change can be attributed to higher levels of greenhouse gases released as a result of human activities.

Climate change affects the ocean in many ways.

A new study finds that methane flares in an area off the coast of Norway are not as caused by climate change as previously believed.  Although scientists are warning that the man-made effects of climate change still persist (file photo)

A new study finds that methane flares in an area off the coast of Norway are not as caused by climate change as previously believed. Although scientists are warning that the man-made effects of climate change still persist (file photo)

This could lead to sea level rise and strangulation of coral in the ocean.

According to the National Ocean Service, climate change can also affect ocean currents and cause ‘dirty’ water conditions with low amounts of light.

To reduce the amount of damage done to the oceans, the organization has made the following suggestions:

  • Eat sustainable seafood.
  • Avoid dumping at home…

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