August 28, 2008

Rising Sea Levels Threaten Puffins

By Mark Summers

The Farne Islands have been identified as being among ten coastal landmarks owned by the National Trust which could suffer because of erosion and rising sea levels.

The 30 islands, which are two miles off the coast of Northumberland, are a popular tourist attraction and are internationally important for wildlife.

Twenty species of seabirds breed there, including 55,674 pairs of puffins, and a colony of grey seals uses the islands as pupping grounds.

But a report for the National Trust says that with increased storms predicted over the next 40 years, it may be harder for visitors to get to the islands.

Bad weather could make it impossible to cross the short expanse of sea, and increasing sea levels could wash away the quays.

Officials fear storms could also wash away many of the sea bird chicks that nest there.

The National Trust is looking at the infrastructure needed to visit the islands and is considering installing temporary quays.

Other places at risk include St Michael's Mount in Cornwall, an iconic rocky island with a medieval church perched on top, Studland Beach in Dorset, which is visited by more than one million people each year, and the white cliffs of Birling Gap in East Sussex.

Phil Dyke, coast and marine advisor to the trust, said: "Over the next 100 years, the shape of our coastline will change and our favorite sea-side destinations may not look the way they were captured in our holiday snapshots. To try and predict what these places will look like in the future, the National Trust has carried out research examining how things like sea level rise and increased storminess will affect all our coastal sites. From these results we know where change is most likely to happen and what this change might be. Now we are looking at what this means in terms of practical management. At the National Trust we believe in working with natural processes wherever possible. We need to realize that our environment is not fixed and that change is inevitable. Society needs to learn to adapt."


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