20,000 birds just starved to death off the Dutch coast and no one knows why

Popular Science | 2/8/2019 | Staff
smnth28 (Posted by) Level 3
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Thousands of seabirds have been washing onto the Dutch shoreline for about a month now. At least, we think it’s been a month. It’s unclear. Perhaps the most concerning detail is that no one really knows why.

This whole thing is “a bit of an enigma,” as Mardik Leopold, a biologist at Wageningen University who studies the ecology of the North and Wadden seas, puts it. Leopold has been spearheading the efforts to figure out exactly why roughly 20,000 guillemots have died off the coast of the Netherlands (that’s an estimated 10,000 on beaches plus another 10,000 that are likely still at sea). So far there are a lot of theories and few answers. Starting with when this all began.

Leopold - Colleagues - Network - Volunteers - Beaches

Leopold and his colleagues rely on a network of volunteers to comb the beaches and report when something unusual turns up. They initially received reports about an unusually high number of birds dying in early January just after a large container ship spilled some of its contents into the North Sea during a storm. But then again, “there are always dead birds on the beach in winter,” he says, so perhaps the volunteers heard about the container ship and started looking more closely right after. Either way, somewhere around the beginning of 2019, an unusually high number of guillemots began washing ashore on the northern coast. From there it seemed to spread (again, potentially because volunteers were alerted and started looking harder) down towards Rotterdam and into Zeeland.

But it stops at the border. “It’s a real Dutch...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Science
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