Stress in seabirds: causes, consequences and diagnostic value

  • David R. Thompson
  • Keith C. Hamer


We describe a range of anthropogenic stressors thatimpact seabirds, review the effects of these stressorson individuals and populations and discuss the roleand value of seabirds as monitors of marine ecosystemhealth. Stressors described are restricted to thosewhich affect seabirds directly or indirectly throughthe marine environment; we have not dealt withterrestrially based stressors such as introducedmammalian predators or loss of habitat, which canpotentially affect seabirds whilst breeding. Wediscuss three broad categories of stress in seabirds.Marine pollutants (including biologicallynon-essential heavy metals, oil, organic pesticidesand polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and plastics),industrial fisheries (further divided into the effectsof depletion of prey stocks and direct mortality), andclimate change. Additionally we highlight the role ofseabirds as monitors of marine ecosystem health,taking the example of long-term mercury contaminationas a case study. We conclude that seabirds are exposedto an increasing array of potential stressors, andthat the impact of a particular source of stress onseabirds varies markedly between species in relationto foraging and breeding ecology. The most seriousthreat to seabirds is direct mortality of adultsresulting from industrial and commercial fishingactivities. In some cases this is a significant threatto individual populations or even entire species.

climate change industrial fisheries marine monitors pollution Seabirds 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Thompson
    • 1
  • Keith C. Hamer
    • 2
  1. 1.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd.Kilbirnie, WellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of DurhamDurhamU.K

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