Implications of climate change for Alaska's seabirds

By: , and 
Edited by: Gunter Weller and Patricia A. Anderson



Seabirds are prominent and highly visible components of marine ecosystems that will be affected by global climate change. The Bering Sea region is particularly important to seabirds; populations there are larger and more diverse than in any similar region in North America—over 90% of seabirds breeding in the continental United States are found in this region. Seabirds, so named because they spend at least 80% of their lives at sea, are dependent upon marine resources for food. As prey availability changes in response to climatically driven factors such as surface sea temperature and extent of sea ice, so will populations of seabirds be affected.

Seabirds are valued as indicators of healthy marine ecosystems and provide a “vicarious use value” or existence value—people appreciate and value seabirds simply because they are there and enjoy them through venues such as pictures, nature programs, and written accounts without ever directly observing seabirds in their native environment. A direct measure of this value is demonstrated by Federal legislation that established specific national wildlife refuges to protect seabirds and international treaty obligations that provide additional protection for seabirds. Seabirds are also an important subsistence resource for many who live within the Bering Sea region. Furthermore, the rich knowledge base about seabirds makes them a valuable resource as indicator species for measurement of change in the marine environment. Understanding this latter relationship is particularly important for seabirds as they can be dramatically affected by development-related activities (e.g., oil spills, fishing); understanding the population effects due to climatic change is critical to interpreting the actual effects of specific human activities or events.

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Implications of climate change for Alaska's seabirds
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research
Publisher location Fairbanks, AK
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 15 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Assessing the consequences of climate change for Alaska and the Bering Sea region
First page 75
Last page 89
Conference Title Workshop on the Consequences of Climate Change for Alaska and the Bering Sea Region
Conference Location Fairbanks, AK
Conference Date October 29–30, 1998
Country United States
State Alaska
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