April 14, 2021

Birds, new detectors of the speed of marine currents – The Province

Birds, new detectors of the speed of marine currents - The Province


An international team led by scientists from the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (CSIC) has proposed to analyze the behavior of seabirds when they are perched on the surface of the sea during the breeding season as an alternative approach to study the surface currents of the Balearic Sea. The results of the work have been published in the Scientific Reports magazine.

So far, the surface currents of the Balearic Sea have been studied by combining speed data recorded by buoys, gliders and high frequency coastal radars with data obtained by satellites. But after studying the data of the behavior of 75 individuals of the specie Cinderella shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) from the islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Columbretes (small archipelago off the coast of Valencia) and place a GPS device, researchers have concluded that the movements of these birds offer equal information of reliable than other devices.

The Cinderella shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) spend up to ten hours perched on the surface of the sea, being dragged by surface currents or wind, after moving from the Balearic Islands to the food areas in the peninsula.

"We have compared the speed data obtained from the position of birds and surface currents of the Balearic Sea recorded by satellites and the results are similar," he explained. Antonio Sánchez-Román, coauthor of the study and scientist of the CSIC in the Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies.

"The use of Cory's Shearwater and other seabird species as an alternative to measure surface currents it supposes a considerable energetic and economic saving. In addition, it allows us to analyze a part of the behavior of seabirds that has barely been studied before: resting periods on the sea surface ", added Ananda Pascual, CSIC researcher also at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies.

The authors of the study also value the fact that they use animals, in addition, information from the sea can be obtained in areas that have not been sampled by traditional techniques due to their lack of viability from a technical point of view. "Greater knowledge of the dynamics of the sea The Balearic Islands will not only help to improve the management of the marine environment, but also better protection against the presence and dispersion of pollutants, "concluded Sánchez-Román.

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