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Picture of the Day

If El Niños happen twice as often in the future, what happens to seabirds?

More frequent El Niño events in the future may have surprising impacts on seabirds and some fish species, according to a new study. El Niños are unusually warm ocean conditions that occur every two to seven years off the Pacific Coast, bringing with them poor ocean productivity and sometimes catastrophic weather conditions. Fossil coral records and climate change models indicate that El Niños occurred both more and less frequently over the past 1,000 years than they do now, and climate change may speed up or slow down their frequency in the future. In a modeling study recently published, researchers in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology wondered how changes in frequency of El Niño and its more favorable, cool-water counterpart La Niña might affect Brandt's cormorant. The seabird was selected as a model species because of its known sensitivity to environmental changes. The study's models indicated that doubling the frequency of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon, which includes El Niño and La Niña, unexpectedly resulted in higher population numbers and a lower chance of extinction for Brandt's cormorants.

Visit Website | Image credit: Annie Schmidt/UC Davis