Huffing and Puffin' On the Isle of Maybe

Rich wonders:

“Nature as harmonious and peaceful? Have these people watched Springwatch?” 

Good point. They had live footage of swallows eating their own chicks the other day.

Springwatch somehow manages to marry the genres of science documentary, freakshow and aspirational lifestyle programme. And how better to combine the three than with a bit of dolphin telekinesis? Not only can dolphins navigate and hunt using sonar, but by picking up each others’ sonar as it bounces back, they can, (“we think,” coughs co-presenter Simon King), read each others’ minds.

Wow, dolphins. See how these clever, gentle creatures play…

[Shots of dolphins riding the multi-storey bow-waves of oil tankers in the Moray Firth.
Cut to celebrity wildlife-sound-recordist, Christ Watson
, against a sunset. He is listening theatrically into earphones and twiddling special dials on a machine slung over his shoulder] 

Simon King: “Their whole world is made up of a picture of sound. And on that point, I’d just like to show you something. Just have a look at this:

“Of course there’s a lot of boat traffic up and down the Moray Firth. You’d expect it; it’s normal; has been here for many years. But just listen – and this is just normal boat traffic – just listen. Just listen to what happens.
That’s what you hear above water…

[calming shooshing noise].

“And this is what you hear underwater…

[horrible grinding drone]

“Sound travels about five time faster through salt water than it does through air, and it’s just astonishingly loud from such a huge distance.

“Now I know there are proposals to potentially develop oil and gas extraction near the Moray Firth. And you’ve got to think; there’s going to be increased traffic; there’s going to be building; there’s going to be all sorts of seismic activity; and as a result, you know, what’s that going to do to the dolphins? There’s a lot of study still to go, but, I don’t know, the conclusion? Still waiting […]

Kate Humble: “Thank you Simon. Yes he’s right. I mean, there’s been quite a lot of talk recently, particularly when there are, kind of like, multi-strandings of dolphins or whales, that it could be down to noise pollution.”

Bill Oddie: “Yeah”

KH: “And when you hear that sort of thing, it doesn’t surprise you at all.”

BO: “Not at all. I was up there last year, with Chris Watson, actually, and we recorded the sound of a much bigger boat than that. And, I promise you, I had the earphones on. By the time it was within half a mile, it was like Status Quo on a bad night, you know, and not quite as entertaining, I promise you. The noise was unbelievable. I really couldn’t keep the earphones on.”

KH: “And you can see how disorienting that would be, particularly if it’s sound you rely on so much to find your way, your sense of direction.”

BO: “Totally, yes.”

KH: “Well, certainly, yes, research needs to be done.”

BO: “Well, I think the research has been done, you see. I just personally think it’s just perfectly obvious that it is a problem. And we know that and, really, some sort of legislation should be done. And that should be a boat-free area, really.

So, in summary, dolphins love playing about around huge, noisy tankers. But surely, all that noise can’t be good for them? Perhaps we should do some research. Although, nah, you just can’t be too careful, and anyway Bill Oddie once had his earphones turned up too high, so we’d better just ban something.

We’re back to Dr Fox again. Except that this is no nutter on a comedy programme. This is the voice of the BBC.

Further down the east coast, on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, there is another environmental calamity in progress. The BBC is on to it:

Fewer puffins are going to breed at the UK’s largest colony of the species, on the Isle of May, scientists report. 

Numbers are down to about 41,000 breeding pairs this year from almost 70,000 pairs in 2003.

We have as little against puffins as we do against dolphins. The Isle of May is beautiful. We know it well. You can’t move for puffin burrows. That’s because the Isle of May’s puffin population has been growing spectacularly over the last half century.

Puffin numbers on the Isle of May increased steadily from a handful of pairs 50 years ago to around 69,300 pairs in 2003.  

Global warming good for puffins, anybody? On the contrary, the BBC somehow still manages to turn it into a global warming scare story:

Researchers believe the decline is linked to changes in the North Sea food web, perhaps related to climate change. 

And yet, despite being quoted at length in the article, Professor Mike Harris from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), who conducted the research, apparently says nothing about the climate change connection. Neither does the CEH press release that announced the survey results. The BBC has to go to the RSPB press office for that:

The suspicion is that climate change is altering the distribution of plankton across the North Sea.

This disrupts the entire food web, including predators such as puffin.

“This fits in with other evidence that North Sea birds have been desperately short of food over several seasons,” said the RSPB’s Grahame Madge.

By the time that the story has made it down to children’s news reports, the BBC has dropped any caution or context whatsoever. We’re killing the puffins and that’s all there is to it:

Scientists are worried that puffins are getting underweight and dying because they haven’t got enough fish to eat in the North Sea. 

The Firth of Forth in Scotland is home to one of the UK’s largest puffin colonies.
But experts who’ve been counting the seabirds there say their numbers have fallen by about a third in five years.

They think climate change could be to blame for the birds not having enough to eat.

Oh for the days when all kids had to worry about was nuclear annihilation. At least that would be quick. Without a cold war to scare them silly, children now have to lie awake at night fretting about the ecopocalypse.

Here’s something else to give them nightmares: The Moray Firth bottlenosed dolphins, which are among the best studied population of dolphins anywhere, have a nasty habit of going around murdering harbour porpoises. What’s more, they only do that because they mistake them for baby bottlenosed dolphins:

“k7250”> ‘Evidence for Infanticide in Bottlenose Dolphins: An Explanation for Violent Interactions with Harbour Porpoises?’ 

Most harbour porpoises found dead on the north-east coast of Scotland show signs of attack by sympatric bottlenose dolphins, but the reason(s) for these violent interactions remain(s) unclear. Post-mortem examinations of stranded bottlenose dolphins indicate that five out of eight young calves from this same area were also killed by bottlenose dolphins. These data, together with direct observations of an aggressive interaction between an adult bottlenose dolphin and a dead bottlenose dolphin calf, provide strong evidence for infanticide in this population. The similarity in the size range of harbour porpoises and dolphin calves that showed signs of attack by bottlenose dolphins suggests that previously reported interspecific interactions could be related to this infanticidal behaviour. These findings appear to provide the first evidence of infanticide in cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). We suggest that infanticide must be considered as a factor shaping sociality in this and other species of cetaceans, and may have serious consequences for the viability of small populations.

That’s all a bit too much, however, for even Springwatch to cover.

19 thoughts on “Huffing and Puffin' On the Isle of Maybe”

  1. “So, in summary, dolphins love playing about around huge, noisy tankers. But surely, all that noise can’t be good for them? Perhaps we should do some research. Although, nah, you just can’t be too careful, and anyway Bill Oddie once had his earphones turned up too high, so we’d better just ban something.”

    Apparently Oddie and his ilk are deploying some manner of selective blindness.

    The answer to “are dolphins adversely affected by this noise pollution” is literally in front of them [leaping even], and yet they draw the conclusion that it has adverse effects on the animals.

    If the dolphins really hated loud noises they’d, oh, I don’t know. Avoid the area. Maybe?

    But they don’t.

    Oddie et all just can’t seem to figure that one out, and resort to some perversion of the Precautionary Principle instead.

  2. By emitting semantically coded acoustic signals humans are able to know what’s going on in each other’s minds! We could call it “talking” but it’s so much sexier to call it “telepathy”.

    Nature’s great. We’re part of Nature. We’re great!

    Rich

  3. I v much enjoyed this one. I particularly appreciated the way you traced out the composition of yet another terrible instance of BBC reporting. I think this sort of detective work is vital to illustrate how this nonsense has become so omnipresent in the media and the public imagination.

  4. Maybe the sudden slump in puffin numbers could have something to do with the fact that sand eels, their preferred food, have been severely overfished in recent years? The Scotsman (news.scotsman.com) website has this story too (“Puffins suffer as warming sea hits food supply for nesting isle”) with plenty of interesting comments from readers.

    Re the warming/plankton connection, there has been another news item this month (again in the Scotsman) about the big recent increase in basking shark numbers in the Scottish Isles. And why is this? An increase in food supply perhaps. More plankton, in other words?

    But then why should the BBC actually look into the matter very thoroughly, when they have global warming as an easy, ready-made answer for just about everything?

  5. http://www.ceh.ac.uk/news/press/Puffindecline.asp

    “Puffin numbers on the Isle of May increased steadily from a handful of pairs 50 years ago to around 69,300 pairs in 2003.”

    And declining pretty fast since 2003. Unless you consider a third of the population to be small number.

    Add to this the evidence showing declining numbers of awks generally around the british isles (and other sebirds reliant upon sand eels) and you have an interesting picture.

    Add to this the fact that sand eel numbers are declining and have been shown to be moving northwards to cooler waters and you series of evidence that knocks several holes in your article.

    We now get Pilchards in our southern waters where once we had sand eels. Pilchards being a fish usually found in warmer waters.

  6. Anon says that ‘evidence … knocks several holes’ in our post, because of an ‘interesting picture’ which emerges from some factoids.

    What is the picture? How are the factoids related? And what are the new holes in the post?

    It’s often very hard to understand what environmentalists are on about.

  7. In December 2007 there was a BBC report about EU fishing quotas for 2008. They said: “Other stocks which are threatened include… sand eels in the North Sea.” And back in 2005, the Telegraph reported: “The sand eel, a small silvery fish that spends most of its life buried in the sand, is at the bottom of the marine food chain, and part of the diet of cod, mackerel, porpoises and birds such as arctic terns and kittiwakes in the breeding season. It has also been the basis of the “industrial” fishery in the North Sea which took about 750 million tons of sand eels each year and pulped them for oil and meal used in salmon farms. Surveys for the European Union and Norway show that sand eel numbers are half the 300 billion individual fish that the European Commission says are needed for the fishery to continue.”

    So I’m wondering whether bloody great EU factory ships hoovering up their food might just have something to do with the puffins’ decline.

    Or it could be global warming, naturally. It could be also argued that global warming could have caused the decline of the black rhino in the late 20th century, as warmer temperatures might have affected the growth patterns of African grasslands (see, even I can write this sort of stuff.) Their decline may have been exacerbated, of course, by the actions of poachers with high-powered firearms. But anyway, let’s focus on global warming…

  8. Hello editors,

    The “factoids” are evidence which emerged in the peer reviewed literature. I know it may be too much effort to explore, you know, some real research when making a blog post, but when that evidence makes a mockery of your statements about puffin populations. Your post therefore seems irrelevant to the real world.

    You may well have no access to ISI and have no means of accessing peer reviewed material but the very first google hit for “sand eels climate change” would have taken you to a society that does quote directly from that research:

    http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/articles/publicaffairs/press/pressreleases/Kittiwakes%20and%20sandeels/

    Given how accessible that information was why didn’t you consider it into your post? Oh, that would be because it blames something on climate change and warmer SSTs. Yes, apparently, according to the evidence, warmer waters inhibit the growth of sand eel larvae preventing them from reaching adulthood….the stage at which puffins and many other animals feed on. Also, warmer waters have been implicated in the demise of plankton levels in the North Sea…the basic fodder of sand eels. True, fishing of sand eels has caused a decline in their numbers, but GW has been implicated in this too.

    In short, your post contains no useful information on puffin population declines. You’ve also completely botched the piece on dolphins, as again, a cursory glance on ISI yields many papers showing links between anthropogenic noise and cetaceans behavior and physiology. You are probably quite right that dolphins enjoy ships bow waves and quite right in pointing out the silliness of Bill Oddie’s example of listening to the ship through headphones, but these criticisms do not dispatch the accumulated evidence linking cetacean beachings and certain anthropogenic noise. Explosions, drilling, oil rig work and sonar appear to be of particular concern. Ships are even cited in some studies.

    My point is that you’ve totally ignored the peer reviewed evidence and posted your own opinions, and in light of that evidence they seem pretty pointless. If you are going to ignore evidence in this way that refutes what you say so blatantly what is the point in posting? It just lowers your posts to political point scoring and ideologically driven nonsense.

    And BTW, you call me a environmentalist, is that an insult? I’m actually a working atmospheric scientist.

  9. ‘Anon’ appears to be angry that there exists some study which we inadvertently failed to review before writing a blog post about the BBC’s treatment of two stories.

    This seems to imply that the BBC can take liberties with facts because Anon believes there is evidence which, roughly speaking, indirectly, in a roundabout kind of a way, sort of, backs it up… A bit… Depending on which way you look at it… And if you have access to it.

    Well, we’re waiting to see an actual challenge to anything we’ve actually written, rather than the implication that there exists a vast wealth of academic literature which ‘debunks’ what we have written. Anon could be clearer in taking issue with the post.

    The puffin story was reported by the BBC as though the research indicated global warming as a factor in the population decline. But, as we showed, the press release the BBC ran the story from didn’t mention it. The BBC make the link between the decline and global warming by asking the RSPB – which is about as ‘scientific’ as asking someone from the oil industry for their opinion.

    The warmer seas Anon mentions may well turn out to be a factor in the population’s decline. But that isn’t mentioned in the press release, which suggests ‘difficult winters’ may be to blame:

    “In addition to the Isle of May survey the research team has collated other evidence pointing to a change in puffin population dynamics. Fewer breeding birds than usual returned to land and those that did were underweight when compared to samples from previous years. This suggests that they may have had a difficult winter. In addition, unusually high numbers of puffins, including some ringed on the Isle of May in previous years, were washed ashore dead during the last two winters.”

    Anon believes that we’ve “totally ignored the peer reviewed evidence”. But the point of the post –as with the site – is not to ‘review the evidence’, but to look at the way climate change is treated by the media, and politicians. In this case, the BBC. We saw the BBC article, and we compared it to the press release attached to the study. The difference between them suggests that there was a deliberate attempt to attach the story of the population decline to global warming, regardless of the science.

    So here’s the irony: Anon now accuses us of ‘ignoring evidence’ in order achieve some ‘political point scoring’ through an ‘ideologically driven’ article.

  10. You’ve put forward a good argument except for one major flaw. Where is it written that the BBC must limit it’s articles to one source of information? What is it specifically that prevents them from doing further research when writing articles if that research goes on to reflect the scientific evidence? You would have a point if the RSPB source was wrong or conflicted with the evidence, but as I pointed out, the evidence supports the fact that sand eel populations have declined partially due to warmer sea surface temperatures. Maybe if you could move beyond a flailing ad hominen attack against the RSPB and discussed, you know, some evidence you could make a valid point about the BBC reporting something which appears to be true. So you see, the evidence has everything to do with it, unless you want to declare a ban on the BBC researching its news stories.

    Also, you do know that the RSPB conducts research don’t you? They collect data and make observations about bird feeding habits on their colonies. Were you aware that Puffins had mysteriously started to feed their young pipe fish instead of sand eels? Were you aware that the young puffins are unable to eat pipe fish due to their size. Funny too that something rather odd seems to be happening to pipe fish populations in the North East Atlantic, but that is just pesky evidence…best to ignore that.

    Access to scientific literature can be found at your local library. If you are at a university you can access this freely. Either way you could have done some research on this. Needless to say, writing a post about how the BBC wrote more than was written in a press release and carried out some further investigation which lead to them writing stuff which turned out to agree with the scientific evidence is bizarre. Doing the research yourself would have saved you all the bother.

  11. After a very short time spent looking for information on pipefish I found this:

    http://www.nerc.ac.uk/press/releases/2006/pipefish.asp

    Which is interesting. Prof. Harris pops up in an article which does partially cite climate change for the decline in sand eel numbers.

    Further, if you research on ISI there are articles there which directly linked the pipefish explosion to climate change. By which I mean pipefish larvae numbers correlate very well with SSTs.

    And more information on seabirds, sand eels and pipefish:

    http://www.ntsseabirds.org.uk/File/NTS%20seabird%20season%202007(1).doc

  12. I should add, sorry, that Doug Beare disagrees that the pipefish influx is linked to climate change. However, as I said, there is now good empirical evidence available that the to are connected.

  13. There is more to be found on Mike Harris’s views regarding the implications of his study:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/warmer-seas-blamed-for-rapid-decline-of-scottish-puffin-colony-839600.html

    Interesting, he says he believes that climate change is partially responsible here. That was easy to find, on the same page as the CEH article about this:

    http://www.ceh.ac.uk/news/news_archive/2008_news_item_16.html

    which was found at the first hit by searching for puffins on their website.

  14. Anon certainly seems to be very worried about the BBC’s integrity being questioned. Let’s hope it doesn’t distract him from his important atmospheric research.

    In the first of his four comments, he agrees that we would have a good argument, were it not for there being no restriction on how many sources the BBC are allowed to report in one article. According to Anon, the RSPB do research too. But the RSPB didn’t do any research in this case. They merely gave an opinion, seemingly in order to give the spin put on the press release credibility. The population study announced in the press release had just been published. A study undertaken on behalf (or by) of the RSPB attributing the decline to global warming would have to have been completed exceptionally quickly.

    As an aside, we reported recently on other ‘research’ commissioned by the RSPB which appeared to cite loss of biodiversity as a risk factor in mental health. As we said earlier, asking the RSPB for their views on what is or isn’t caused by climate change is a bit like asking Exxonmobil. They are not impartial.

    Anon moves on, the ‘evidence’, which ‘supports the fact that sand eel populations have declined partially due to warmer sea surface temperatures’ apparently gives credibility to the claim that puffin populations have declined due to global warming. Bu that is irrelevant. This is what the article claimed:

    “Researchers believe the decline is linked to changes in the North Sea food web, perhaps related to climate change.”

    Which is similar to the claim made in the Independent article linked to by Anon, which says;

    “Warmer seas blamed for rapid decline of Scottish puffin colony…”

    Yet the content reveals a far less certain picture than the headline promises:

    The exact cause of the dramatic fall in numbers remains a mystery, but Professor Harris believes the decline could be the result of climate change. He says that as the seas warm up, it is affecting the numbers of fish available for the puffins to eat.”

    This is just a population study. It is not a study which attributes population change to any cause. Furthermore, the articles explain that the population was last recorded in 2003, and had been increasing by 10% per year. Now, it appears to have fallen 30% in 5 years. Why can we attribute the smaller decrease to climate change, but the larger increase to something else? Why is an increase in the puffin population – in spite of climate change – ‘normal’, but the increase in pipe fish alarming? If the story could not have been attributed to climate change, it would not have been an interesting story. It wouldn’t have been in the BBC site, and it would not have been in the Independent.

    It’s also interesting how much weight Anon gives to the cautious speculation that climate change might have been involved, even though the very pages he links to contradict his claim:

    “There have been changes in water temperature in the North Sea since about 1988 but large numbers of snake pipefish have only appeared during the last three or four years. These major outbreaks of previously rare species do occasionally ‘just happen’ in marine ecosystems and they can have a startling effect on marine food webs. Interestingly, they are often associated with very poor breeding seasons in seabirds.”

    We were particularly puzzled by Anon’s remark that our posts represented some kind of ‘ad hominen’{sic} attack on the RSPB. The RSPB have their agenda. Over the recent years, the conservation agenda has converged with climate change, and both issues have become politicised. The RSPB are not above politics, nor of spin, nor above self-interest and partiality. Questioning the role, influence and opinions of NGOs is entirely legitimate, and essential to understanding what function they are actually performing. Is Anon claiming otherwise? Too often, the opinions of NGOs are given uncritical treatment, yet they can have significant consequences.

  15. Eds: You should do a piece on the Environmental stuff that is going on between McCain and Obama. It’s quite interesting to see how the Republicans appear to have capitulated on global warming/carbon caps and what have you. Newt Gingrich and Rev. Pat Robertson have become quite the environmentalists these days.

    Bill Oddie at his worst will convince a few cottagers in Burford or Lechlade that the birds are dying off because they left the electricity on overnight. The BBC is what it is entertainment, but the big boys on Capitol Hill are moving ideologically in a way that would have surprised me even a year ago. It’s a major political shift. All sorts of serious political and economic consequences will flow from this capitulation. You did a post below that outlined how David Cameron (my MP btw) has already anticipated this trend with his proposal for decentraized energy production.

    The resistance of America’s hard right and center right to the more hysterically funny assertions of environmental politics died this year. It’s one of the biggest stories to happen this year.

  16. Is there a valid reason for you to delete my post? Did I swear, for instance? Or is that I showed that your reading of the BBC article was flawed? You are aware now that the statements highlighting the possible link between climate change and puffin population declines in the BBC article originated from Harris and not the the RSPB. It really isn’t clear how you attributed the climate change link to the RSPB. The mention of climate change comes before the RSPB spokesperson is quoted whilst the article is still clearly referring to Harris. Harris has publicly stated that there is a possible link to climate change. Your position and article seem to be inconsistent with this.

  17. Anon,

    We have not deleted any of your posts. In the history of the site, we have only deleted one post – from a very tedious troll. We are not afraid of criticism. We encourage it, and we try to answer it fully.

    We are not in control of the software which filters comments, nor can we interrogate it to see what might have triggered it. Perhaps you could post it again.

  18. Anon,

    In reply to your complaint that ‘the statements highlighting the possible link between climate change and puffin population declines in the BBC article originated from Harris and not the the RSPB’, let us remind you of your earlier comment: ‘The “factoids” are evidence which emerged in the peer reviewed literature.’ In which case, why do you now resort to trawling through the popular press?

    Perhaps it is because your ISI search merely turned up papers linking the pipefish explosion to climate change (climate variability?), when as far as we can see, the pipefish are not themselves being blamed for seabird declines – it’s just that pipefish are a poor substitute for sand eels.

    Otherwise, all you have provided us with is a link to an article in the Independent and press releases from BES, NERC and CEH. The latter, like the CEH press release we flagged up, makes no mention of climate change. The BES document concerns kittiwakes, a species that was declining while the puffin population was still increasing. The NERC release again concerns the pipefish explosion.

    You are right that Harris mentions climate change in the Independent article. But his phrasing is extremely cautious:

    ‘The exact cause of the dramatic fall in numbers remains a mystery, but Professor Harris believes the decline could be the result of climate change. He says that as the seas warm up, it is affecting the numbers of fish available for the puffins to eat.

    “We think there’s been some change in their native environment in the last couple of years. One possibility is that there’s been a big change in the sea, from intense fishing and marine climate change. This has affected the development of plankton, which in turn has an impact on the numbers of fish for the puffins to eat.”‘

    So, yes, ‘Harris has publicly stated that there is a possible link to climate change’, but we fail to see how a cautious, qualified statement made to a newspaper is ‘inconsistent’ with our argument that that the BBC did not get their information from Harris himself. Furthermore, as the CEH sources (yours and ours) demonstrate, that possible link is not sufficiently robust to merit their mentioning it in any of their publicity material.

    Your argument would carry more weight if, rather than getting bogged down in the semantic integrity of our post, you could explain how it is reasonable for the BBC to mutate the idea of a ‘possible’ link between bird numbers and climate change to a matter of established, unqualified fact.

  19. Unfortunately I didn’t keep a copy of the post. I will take your explanation at face value and I apologise for making the accusation that you deliberately removed my post. I did see my post on the site initially but for whatever reason it disappeared later.

    We agree that Harris has publicly stated that there is a possible link between climate change and puffin declines. I agree with his position which I think is well supported by the present literature concerning sea surface temperatures, plankton, sand eels and pipefish. These lines of evidence show a possible link between a warmer north sea and puffin declines. You can place greater certainty upon the disruption of plankton, pipefish and sand eels by these warmer seas where specific studies show the physiological effects of temperature changes in more detail. What emerges out of that for puffins is less clear.

    Regarding pipefish, seabirds and puffins, specifically, there is well documented evidence from various sources at various locations indicating the disruptive effect pipefish are having upon young puffins. The pipefish are too big so the young puffins are apparently choking or simply not eating them….either way their chances of survival become diminished. Researchers are finding puffin nests filled with dead rotting pipefish and dead young puffins at different locations around the British Isles.

    My post dealt with a comparison between the BBC wording and Harris’s Independent quote:

    ‘The exact cause of the dramatic fall in numbers remains a mystery, but Professor Harris believes the decline could be the result of climate change. He says that as the seas warm up, it is affecting the numbers of fish available for the puffins to eat.

    “We think there’s been some change in their native environment in the last couple of years. One possibility is that there’s been a big change in the sea, from intense fishing and marine climate change. This has affected the development of plankton, which in turn has an impact on the numbers of fish for the puffins to eat.”

    and the BBC:

    “So whatever the problem is, it’s got to be a widespread one,” said Professor Harris.

    The suspicion is that climate change is altering the distribution of plankton across the North Sea.

    This disrupts the entire food web, including predators such as puffin.

    ————–

    I don’t see an inconsistency between what Harris is saying, what the BBC stated and the apparent causal links between plankton, pipefish and sand eel disruptions seemingly due to SST changes seen in the scientific literature.

    “Furthermore, as the CEH sources (yours and ours) demonstrate, that possible link is not sufficiently robust to merit their mentioning it in any of their publicity material.”

    But Harris is making public comments about possible links between climate change and puffin declines

    You ask why I am now examining news articles instead of peer reviewed literature. Earlier you made points suggesting that I wasn’t really dealing with the substance of your post. In an attempt to address this concern I posted information regarding the apparent source of the “climate change” comments in the BBC article. The wording of the BBC article remains consistent with Harris’s own comments. The wording of the BBC article seems to indicate that the origin of the “climate change” comment is not from the RSPB but from Harris. We have Harris saying that the problem has to be a widespread one and then we have unattributed remarks citing a suspicion of climate change…..which appears to fit with Harris’s opinion indicated elsewhere. The RSPB quotes don’t mention climate change and nor do they cite it as a cause….they agree that the observed “problem” is a widespread one.

    In summary, you claim that the BBC is making statements about climate change and puffins using the RSPB as a source, but this is not clear from my reading of the article and of Harris’s opinions elsewhere. Also, the BBC’s language does not place great certainty upon this, only saying there is a suspicion….this fits with the language used by Harris i.e. “possible”. And finally, Harris’s position is likely not derived solely from his population study but from the other empirical evidence regarding pipefish, plankton etc.

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