Puffin Populations Falling

Puffin Populations Falling

Published July 7, 2014

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Grapevine Archives

A biologist contends that Icelandic puffin populations are reaching dangerously low levels.

Vísir reports that Erpur Snær Hansen, a doctor of biology, has been examining the populations of young puffins at different nesting grounds around Iceland, and has come to some grim conclusions.

“This is the 12th year in a row that [puffin] nesting has been poor on the Westman Islands,” he told reporters, referring to one of Iceland’s formerly most populous areas for puffin nesting. “The younger puffins, the ones people hunt for food, have lost almost three-quarters of their numbers.”

The total number of puffins has dropped from 8 million in 2003 to 5 million today, marking a 37% drop. According to measurements used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), any species which sees at least a 30% drop in numbers in a single location over a period of ten years is considered in critical danger.

The cause for the puffin decline, Erpur believes, is connected to climate change.

“We see a warming-up period [around Iceland] about every 70 years or so,” he told reporters. “This decreases herring populations, which is the main source of food for puffins. We are experiencing one of these warming-up periods now, in addition to temperature changes in the sea caused by human activity. But the oceans should cool again by 2030, so it’s a question of whether the puffin can hang in there until then.”


Where Have All The Puffins Gone?

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