Former Kent Island Directors Publish on Climate Change and Storm Petrels

Bowdoin student and Kent Island fellow, Claire Goffinet ’19 with a Leach’s storm-petrel chick summer of 2017. Photo by Fred Field for Bowdoin College.

Three scientists who have led the Bowdoin College Scientific Station on Kent Island at different times over the last few decades have published a new article in Global Change Biology that looks at how temperature changes affect the reproductive success of Leach’s storm petrels.

For their research, Bob Mauck of Kenyon College, Don Dearborn of Bates College, and (posthumously) Chuck Huntington of Bowdoin used longterm temperature data from Kent Island going back to 1939. They also had data on Leach’s storm petrels dating to 1955, when Huntington began his study of the island’s petrel population.

The three researchers investigated the impact that changing local and global temperatures, and shifting sea surface temperatures, has had on the reproduction of storm petrels over the last fifty-six years.

“Mauck et al. found that as temperatures rose between 1955 and 1988, storm-petrel hatching success increased…until in 1988 it appears that global temperatures reached a critical point,” Assistant Professor of Biology Patty Jones explains in a blog post. Jones is the newest director of Kent Island.

“Since 1988, hatching success has declined as global temperatures have continued to rise,” Jones continues. “The decline in hatching success since 1988 is most likely due to the negative impacts of increasing temperatures on food availabilities for petrels as fish move further northward and into deeper waters.”

Jones notes that the scientists also found that increasing temperatures do not affect all petrels in the same way. “Birds with more breeding experience have higher hatching success in general, and appeared to be somewhat buffered against these effects of climate change,” she writes.

Read more here and here.

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