Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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Population estimates for Scopoli’s and Yelkouan Shearwaters in the Aegean Sea based on at-sea surveys

Sylvia Zakkak (Department of Ecology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) and colleagues write in the open-access journal Marine Ornithologyon at-sea densities and extrapolated numbers of Scopoli’s Calonectris diomedea and Yelkouan Puffinus yelkouan Shearwaters (both potential candidates for ACAP listing) in the Aegean Sea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We estimate the population size of the three most abundant seabird species in the north Aegean Sea (Calonectris diomedea, Larus michahellis and Puffinus yelkouan), along with their distribution patterns. Sampling was carried out from May to September 2009 in line transects 300 m or 600 m wide and with a total length of 3 007 km. The sampling was opportunistic, using a variety of ships. After the data were corrected for movement bias, populations were estimated by using two types of stratification method:  novel fractal–based method as well as generalized additive models, which yielded the most conservative estimate of the population, although all estimates were quite similar. Overall, taking the mean estimate of the three most credible methods, we estimate the density of birds for the area to be 0.46 birds/km² for the three species together (C. diomedea 0.10 birds/km², L. michahellis 0.11 birds/km² and P. yelkouan 0.26 birds/km²). These densities of seabirds in the north Aegean are smaller than observed in studies in other parts of the world, but not surprisingly so, given the low productivity of the north Aegean. In view of the widespread and growing threats to seabird populations, the results of this study provide a useful basis for further scientific studies and for applied research including the designation of marine Important Bird Areas for the region.”

Yelkouan Shearwaters at sea

Reference:

Zakkak, S., Panagiotopoulou, M., & Halley, J.M. 2013.  Estimating the abundance of seabirds in the north Aegean Sea.  Marine Ornithology 41: 141-148.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 March 2014

Streaked Shearwaters thought affected by the Fukushima nuclear accident

Sayaka Uematsu (School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns Queensland  Australia) and colleagues look at physiological responses of Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas chicks to potential radionuclide exposure following the Fukushima nuclear accident in the journal Ecological Indicators.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 released significant amounts of radionuclides into the marine environment.  Exposure to radiation reduces levels of antioxidants such as carotenoids and vitamins A and E within exposed individuals.  Such reductions can cause teratogenic or mutagenetic effects leading to reduced reproductive viability and fitness.  Reduced antioxidant levels therefore may be used as an indicator of radionuclide contamination and to infer individual or population level impacts; however, the taxa-specific responses of marine organisms, such as seabirds, are poorly understood.  As top predators, seabirds are ideal bio-indicators of the prevalence of contaminants and pollutants in marine ecosystems.  At-sea foraging distributions of Streaked Shearwaters (Calonectris leucomelas) from Mikura Island (MKR), Japan during the post egg-laying period coincide with the Fukushima nuclear plume while the breeding colony on Birou Island (BRU) lies outside the affected zone.  We examined the physiological responses of Streaked Shearwater chicks at MKR and BRU to possible radiation exposure during the 2011 breeding season, four to seven months after the Fukushima nuclear accident.  Fledging mass did not differ between islands but fledglings from MKR displayed significantly reduced vitamin A levels.  Available information suggests these depletions most likely result from radiation exposure due to the Fukushima nuclear accident, implying that the risk of radionuclide contamination is considerably elevated for Streaked Shearwaters on MKR, where more than 60% of the world's population breeds.  While additional negative impacts are expected due to delayed effects of radionuclide transport via biomagnification in the food chain, this study highlights the potential immediate and worrisome consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident for marine wildlife.”

Reference:

Uematsu, S., Uematsu, K. J. Lavers, J.L. & Congdon, B.C. 2014.  Reduced vitamin A (retinol) levels indicate radionuclide exposure in Streaked Shearwaters (Calonectris leucomelas) following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.  Ecological Indicators 43: 244-251.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 May 2014

Getting around in the southern Indian Ocean: Critically Endangered Amsterdam Albatrosses visit Australian, Namibian and South African EEZ waters

Jean-Baptiste Thiebot (Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé, Villiers-en-Bois, France) and colleagues have published in the journal Endangered Species Research on the results of at-sea tracking of Amsterdam Albatrosses Diomedea amsterdamensis.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Long-lived animals typically exhibit several stages throughout their life-cycle during which their distribution may vary substantially, which may challenge the relevance of protection measures to them.  Here we surveyed individual movements of the critically endangered Amsterdam albatross from Amsterdam Island, southern Indian Ocean, during all its life-cycle stages.  Our goal was to identify, from the areas visited by the albatrosses, which coastal states share responsibility in regulating industrial fishing in their own Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) in order to promote the preservation of this species.   Using modern, stage-relevant tracking techniques (satellite tags, GPS and GLS loggers), we surveyed 361 at-sea trips in 93 individuals over 9 years, covering incubation, brooding, chick-rearing, sabbatical, failed-breeding, juvenile and immature stages. Our data show that Amsterdam albatrosses exhibit a wide and variable foraging radius (from 326 ± 193 km during brooding to 5519 ± 766 km for immatures) and at-sea distribution across stages, putting them beyond the French EEZ of Amsterdam Island for all or part of the trips surveyed in each stage.  The albatrosses visited the EEZs of France, South Africa, Australia, Madagascar, Mauritius and Namibia.   Wider-scale distribution of the non-breeders took them to more countries' Economic Exclusive Zones: 3–4 (France, South Africa, Australia and Namibia) versus 1–3 (France, Madagascar, Mauritius) for individuals in non-breeding and breeding stages, respectively. This study stresses the relevance of obtaining synoptic information on threatened species' distribution to address conservation questions, especially regarding the breeding versus non-breeding categories of the populations."

An Amsterdam Albatross off South Africa, photograph by Trevor Hardaker

Reference:

Thiebot, J.-B., Delord, K., Marteau, C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Stage-dependent distribution of the critically endangered Amsterdam albatross in relation to Economic Exclusive Zones.  Endangered Species Research 23: 263-276.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 April 2014

Differences in foraging between Waved Albatrosses from Galápagos and Isla del Plata

Jill Awkerman (US Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Breeze, Florida, USA) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Ornithology on contrasts between foraging by Waved Albatrosses Phoebastria irrorata from the Galápagos and from Isla de la Plata.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“To determine the proximate consequences of the limited breeding distribution of the critically endangered Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata), we present continuous breeding season GPS tracks highlighting differences in behaviour, destinations, and distances travelled between three distinct colonies: two in Galápagos and one closer to the South American continent on Isla de la Plata, where a small number of pairs nest.  Accelerometer data paired with GPS locations allowed operational classifications of Waved Albatross behaviour.  All birds from Galápagos travelled eastward to the continental shelf and foraged southward along the Peruvian coast.  Birds from Isla de la Plata made more and shorter foraging trips and used habitat north of the destinations of Galápagos birds.  La Plata birds foraged in areas through which Galápagos birds commuted, and had slower average flight speeds and shorter commutes.  Overall, albatrosses from La Plata might operate under a consistently lower return but they also incur lower costs compared to birds from Galápagos, which take fewer trips involving longer time investment.  Galápagos birds may be able to forage more effectively based on more abundant or more profitable food patches in those highly productive areas.  Foraging destinations of birds from the two Galápagos colonies were similar and overlapped areas that presented localized mortality risk from artisanal fisheries in previous years.  This study, performed across the species’ breeding range, reveals the different foraging distribution of La Plata albatrosses and the potential conservation value of this small colony in terms of maintenance of spatial diversity and behavioural plasticity.”

 Waved Albatross on Isla del Plata, photograph by Sebastian Cruz

Reference:

Awkerman, J.A., Cruz, S., Proaño, C., Huyvaert, KP., Uzcátegui, G.J., Baquero, A., Wikelski, M. & Anderson, D.J. 2014.  Small range and distinct distribution in a satellite breeding colony of the critically endangered Waved Albatross.  Journal of Ornithology 155: 367-378.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 April 2014

A Wedge-tailed Shearwater colony on a Hawaiian island continues to do well with volunteer help

David Hyrenbach (Department of Natural Sciences, Hawai'i Pacific University, Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA) and Wendy Johnson write in 'Elepaio, newsletter of the Hawai‘i Audubon Society, on their monitoring and management efforts with Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus pacificus over five years in a colony on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

Their results show the Freeman Seabird Preserve colony has increased by 25% per year since 2009 from around 75 to 200 breeding pairs:  “[t]his trend suggests that the ongoing revegetation efforts and the increasing number of available nesting sites continue to support an unprecedented growth of this Wedge-tailed Shearwater colony…”.

“From January through March 2013, while the birds were at sea, Hawai'i Audubon Society members and other volunteers worked to remove alien plant species from the preserve and to maintain wedge-tailed shearwater burrows and nesting sites.  Weekly fieldwork opportunities attracted a wide variety of participants, ranging from wildlife conservationists and scientists, to gardening enthusiasts, neighbors and young student groups.  These efforts support the work done in 2011 and 2012 by professional native plant landscapers from Hui Ku Maoli Ola, who transformed a vacant house-lot into a unique example of pre-contact Hawaiian dryland coastal habitat with multiple shearwater nesting sites.  Repeat volunteers have found it extremely satisfying to witness, and contribute to, the resurgence of native Hawaiian coastal plants at the Freeman Seabird Preserve.”

A pair of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters

Constructed shearwater burrow in the Freeman Seabird Preserve

Photograph by David Hyrenbach

Click here for an earlier ACAP Latest News item on the Freeman Seabird Preserve.

Reference:

Hyrenbach, K.D. & Johnson, W. 2014.  Five years of Wedge-tailed Shearwater monitoring and habitat restoration at the Freeman Seabird Preserve: 2009 – 2013.  'Elepaio 74(2): 5-6.

See also:

Hyrenbach, K.D. 2011. Tale of two years: monitoring Wedge-tailed Shearwaters at Freeman Seabird Preserve in Black Point, O'ahu. ‘Elepaio 71(3): 17-20.

Hyrenbach, K.D. 2012. 2011: a mixed year at the Freeman Seabird Preserve. ‘Elepaio 72(2): 13-14.

Hyrenbach, K.D. & Johnson, W. 2013. 2012: record breeding shearwater count at the Freeman Seabird Preserve. ‘Elepaio 73(2): 14-15.

Young, L., VanderWerf, E.A. & Lohr, M.E. 2012. Freeman Seabird Preserve predator control. ‘Elepaio72(1): 6.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 April 2014

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