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Climate change causing albatross ‘divorce’: study




BARRIE – Warming water temperatures caused by climate change could cause more albatross pairs, one of the most monogamous bird species in the world, to split.

This according to a new study, published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society.

Researchers studied 15,500 pairs of black-eyed wild albatrosses over a 15-year period in the Falkland Islands.

They found that divorce rates fluctuated over the years, between 0.8 percent and 7.7 percent, with the average separation rate at 3.7 percent.

However, in years with extremely warm temperatures, up to 7.7 percent of albatross couples split up.

The study found that birds were more likely to divorce after breeding failures.

When this happens, the albatross tries to find different partners for the next breeding season.

However, despite previous breeding performance, the probability of divorce was directly affected by the environment, increasing in years with warm sea surface temperature (SSTA) anomalies, the study said.

The authors said their model also showed that the warm SSTA increased the probability of changing spouses in women in successful relationships.

For the first time, with our knowledge, we document the devastating effects of challenging environmental conditions on the breeding processes of a monogamous population, the study said. Potentially mediated by higher reproductive costs, changes in phenology, and physiological stress.

The researchers also found that in seabirds, harsh environmental conditions and lack of food were associated with higher levels of the stress hormone, corticosterone.

Thus, after a difficult season of poor resource reproduction, greater effort and higher breeding investments can make stressed women sever the bond with their former partner and seek a new one, even if previously was successful, the study says.

Francesco Ventura is a researcher at the University of Lisbon and co-author of the Royal Society study.

He said Guardian the warm waters were forcing the albatross to hunt longer and fly farther away from home.

If the birds would not return in time for the breeding seasons, their mates could look elsewhere for someone to mate with, he explained.

Ultimately, researchers said, environmentally driven divorce could be an overlooked consequence of global change.




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