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Photos: Climate changes life for gannets on the island of Quebec

Scientists are tracking threats to seabirds from climate change, overfishing, and other human-made dangers.

However, many species are difficult to study because they live in a marine desert or are dispersed.

But not the northern gannets that breed on Bonaventure Island off Canada’s Gaspe Peninsula. The small island is close to shore and is home to more than 100,000 gannets in the breeding season, making it the second largest northern gannet colony in the world. Also, these birds are easy to approach.

Experts say there is no doubt that global warming is reshaping the lives of northern gannets by pushing the fish into cooler waters and sometimes beyond their reach.

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Warming and rising seas and erratic weather events fueled by a changing climate are taking a heavy toll on seabirds. Researchers from the University of British Columbia say seabird populations have declined 70 percent since the mid-20th century.

Climate-related losses have hit, for example, albatrosses in the central Pacific, penguins in South Africa, and several species in the United States: common guillemots and Cassin’s auklets along the West Coast; puffins off the coast of Maine; New England rosy terns; and brown pelicans on the extinct islands off southeastern Louisiana.

The fights of many species of seabirds occur in the marine nature far from humans. Bonaventure gannets, however, play in full view, a boon to scientists and the public, on the protected lands of the Quebec government’s Parc National de l’lle-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Perce.

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