Using Seabirds as Measurement of Ecosystem Health
Seabirds, or marine birds, include over 300 species from 17 families. These birds have been able to adapt to marine environments for habitat, reproductive, and nutritional purposes. Seabirds rely predominantly on the marine ecosystem for nutrition thus any negative disruption in the system would reflect upon the birds. For this reason, scientists have been using and studying these seabirds to determine anthropogenic effects on the various marine systems to then be able to establish programs that include protection and restoration of both habitat and species.
In South Florida, as well as coasts of Mexico, agriculture and industry are two of the main human activities that introduce the highest amounts of contamination to the marine system. There are certain byproducts from the various industrial processes which are toxic chemical agents and have been found within seabird embryos. The toxicity level in these embryos is being observed with hopes that they provide enough data to support the implementation of the protection and restoration programs. A very similar study was conducted in the Canadian Arctic, with the purpose to trace the contaminants being introduced into the ecosystem and provide information to the communities of the environmental impact their activities have and how to lessen that footprint.
Using the three studies mentioned, I'd like to discuss how seabirds have successfully been used as indicators of marine ecosystem health, specifically when anthropogenic activities effect and disrupt the system.