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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Progress with ridding New Zealand’s Antipodes Island of its alien House Mice

Following the success of the Million Dollar Mouse Campaign in raising funds to support the costs of ridding New Zealand’s Antipodes Island of its introduced House Mice Mus musculus (click here) a Department of Conservation (DOC) expedition is leaving for the island around month end and ahead of next year’s planned bait drop (click here).

Looking across from Antipodes Island to mouse-free Bollons Island

Photograph by Erica Sommer

The Antipodes supports seven species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels, including the Vulnerable Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis. (click here)  Chicks of two closely related species, the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross D. dabbenena of Gough Island and the Vulnerable Wandering Albatross D. exulans of Marion Island are attacked by House Mice leading to deaths as reported previously in ACAP Latest News, and although not yet reported such attacks could occur on the Antipodes.

A pair of Antipodean Albatrosses, photograph by Erica Sommer

Antipodes Islands mouse eradication project manager Stephen Horn reports that “with a million dollars raised towards the project, and a series of trials already completed, it was time to start what would be a long battle.” (click here)

As part of the expedition, scientists will assess the populations of non-target biota, including the Antipodes Cyanoramphus unicolor and Reischek's C. hochstetteri Parakeets, Antipodes Island Snipe Coenocorypha aucklandica meinertzhagenae and the Antipodes Island Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae steindachneri - all endemic taxa - on nearby and mouse-free Bollons Island.  Pipits are to be captured to conduct husbandry trials so that a population can be taken into temporary captivity during the bait drop.

Click here and here to read of last year’s expedition to the island, conducted to undertake studies of the island’s biota threatened by mice.

Together with the other four sub-Antarctic island groups belonging to New Zealand the Antipodes form part of a World Heritage Site, in addition to being a National Nature Reserve and are both Important and Endemic Bird Areas.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 July 2014

Seabirds of Chile: Progress in Biology, Ecology and Conservation: a symposium hears of research on Grey-headed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters

Seabirds in Chile are linked to extensive coastal and oceanic areas and are represented in different areas of endemism.  Their presence in marine systems include the Humboldt Current, oceanic islands and the fjords and sub-Antarctic islands, where key aspects of their biology and ecology still remain unexplored.  These marine systems have varied expressions of human activity, and as such seabirds experience different emerging and established contexts of environmental change.

The description of the reproductive phenology of seabirds and the reduction of incidental mortality in fisheries are topics that require presentation and consideration through working groups. Therefore, a symposium at the XXXIV Chilean Marine Science Congress held at the Universidad de Los Lagos in Osorno, southern Chile in May this year sought to share experiences among researchers under the title: " Seabirds of Chile: Progress in Biology, Ecology and Conservation ".

For the first time, this symposium brought together Chilean researchers and working groups dedicated to different areas of seabird biology, ecology and conservation.  Therefore, this meeting provided an opportunity to disseminate and discuss the state of knowledge and current activity that involves the conservation of this group of marine species, as well as identify the existing priorities and potential future collaborations.

The seven presentations in the symposium included participation from a total of 11 institutions including Chilean and foreign universities, plus national and international non-governmental organisations (click here for authors' summaries in Spanish).

The symposium included a revision of seabird studies, and acknowledged the history of this work in Chilean waters opening with a look back at the beginning of seabird studies in Chile by renowned national researchers, such as by Prof. Roberto Schlatter of the Universidad Austral de Chile.  The event also provided the chance to acknowledge pioneers like Prof. Schlatter for supporting and encouraging the development of new seabird researchers throughout the country.

Luis Cabezas (ATF-Chile) with Prof. Roberto Schlatter during his presentation

Phootgraph by Albatross Task Force -Chile

Subsequently, current research findings were presented on the reproductive biology and ecology of Grey-headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma in Chilean Sub-Antarctic environments (Suazo et al., Justus Liebig University-Giessen/Albatross Task Force-Chile); the ecology and monitoring of multispecies seabird groups foraging in the Humboldt Current System (Anguita & Simeone, University Andres Bello); and the potential for monitoring and evaluating the conservation status of trans-hemispheric migratory species such as Pink-footed Puffinus creatopus and Sooty P. griseus Shearwaters (Simeone & Cabezas).

Pink-footed Shearwater: a candidate for ACAP listing, photograph by Peter Hodum

Another area considered corresponded to actions relating to the conservation of seabirds from beach surveys and island colonies through citizen science and participation including endemic seabirds such as the Pink-footed Shearwaters (Colodro et al., Oikonos) and a volunteer seabird stranding network (Portflitt et al., Catholic University of the North), which, thanks to the participation of volunteers has managed an extensive latitudinal sampling effort.

Finally the session was brought to a close with a summary on seabird bycatch mitigation in various marine fisheries in Chile (Cabezas et al., Albatross Task Force - Chile), as well as the future challenges for seabird conservation with an emphasis on ACAP-listed species.

It is important to highlight the active development of local initiatives and international collaboration that is currently underway in Chile.  These are mainly independent efforts, but there is a clear link and great potential for collaboration if these species are considered under common objectives for the conservation of seabirds in Chile.

The accumulation of different experiences and actions related to endemic species such as the Pink-footed Shearwater represents an opportunity to develop national collaborations.  Such activities require the inclusion of environmental education, citizen participation and science together with integrated conservation actions as much as for seabirds as for other taxa. The first steps include identifying individual responsibilities and actions related to seabird conservation.

Collaborative initiatives, such as the transfer of experiences via thematic workshops and the creation of links between active organisations drive the first steps toward seabird conservation and the solutions to common environmental problems.  Some of these first steps are already underway in Chile, such as collaborative projects on interactions between seabirds and fisheries.  These initiatives are of interest to the national fishery authorities and where citizen involvement is expected throughout the territory, where there is a growing involvement with public entities linked to the system of marine protected areas and long-term development, such as the breeding colonies of the endemic Pink-footed Shearwater.

Such initiatives have permitted the active collaboration by distinct actors to update the conservation status and conservation priorities of Chilean seabirds.  A good example is the collaborative effort by Chilean public representatives and institutions to include the Pink-footed Shearwater in the ACAP list of species.

Thanks to Oliver Yates, BirdLife International Global Seabird Programme for all his support.

Cristián G. Suazo, Symposium Coordinator, Department of Animal Ecology and Systematics, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Giessen, Germany & BirdLife International Albatross Task Force - Chile, 11 July 2014

Helping burrowing petrels: Great Mercury Island in New Zealand to be cleared of its rats and cats over the next two years

The Mercury Islands are a group of seven islands eight kilometres off the north-east coast of the North Island of New Zealand.  The six smaller islands in the group are now rodent free after eradication exercises between 1987 and 1997 removed Pacific Rats Rattus exulans.  They have been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because they support up to 3000 breeding pairs of  Vulnerable Pycroft's Petrels Pterodroma pycrofti, as well as Little Shearwaters Puffinus assimilis.

The largest island (at 1872 ha) is privately-owned Ahuahu-Great Mercury of which one-third is managed for sheep and beef farming, one third as forestry and the remaining third as native forests, wetlands and dunes.  Great Mercury supports a population of Grey-faced Petrels Pterodroma macroptera gouldi - rediscovered in 2012 - as well as of rats Rattus sp..

Great Mercury Island

Following the temporary removal of the domestic stock poison bait is to be spread by helicopter this austral winter as a public-private partnership between the island’s owners and the New Zealand Department of Conservation to remove the rats (click here).  A campaign will also be initiated to remove the island’s feral Domestic Cats Felis catus.  Restoration plantings, weed management and fencing have been ongoing on the island since 1979. Possible introductions of threatened native species may be considered over time.

See also news items in the Waikato Times and National Geographic News Watch.

Selected Literature:

Grace, A.B. 1976.  The Birds of Great Mercury Island, north-eastern New Zealand.  Tane 22: 65-69.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 July 2014

Bad for burrowers: ecological consequences of night-time light pollution

Night-time light pollution causes difficulties to breeding shearwaters, petrels and storm petrels, notably fledglings, at many localities around the World.  For examples, click here to access publications on light pollution affecting Cory’s Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea. 

Kevin Gaston (Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, UK) and colleagues reviewed the consequences of light pollution in the Journal of Animal Ecology in 2012.

The paper’s summary follows:

“Much concern has been expressed about the ecological consequences of night-time light pollution.  This concern is most often focused on the encroachment of artificial light into previously unlit areas of the night-time environment, but changes in the spectral composition, duration and spatial pattern of light are also recognized as having ecological effects.

Here, we examine the potential consequences for organisms of five management options to reduce night-time light pollution.  These are to (i) prevent areas from being artificially lit; (ii) limit the duration of lighting; (iii) reduce the ‘trespass’ of lighting into areas that are not intended to be lit (including the night sky); (iv) change the intensity of lighting; and (v) change the spectral composition of lighting.

Maintaining and increasing natural unlit areas is likely to be the most effective option for reducing the ecological effects of lighting.  However, this will often conflict with other social and economic objectives.  Decreasing the duration of lighting will reduce energy costs and carbon emissions, but is unlikely to alleviate many impacts on nocturnal and crepuscular animals, as peak times of demand for lighting frequently coincide with those in the activities of these species.  Reducing the trespass of lighting will maintain heterogeneity even in otherwise well-lit areas, providing dark refuges that mobile animals can exploit.  Decreasing the intensity of lighting will reduce energy consumption and limit both skyglow and the area impacted by high-intensity direct light.  Shifts towards ‘whiter’ light are likely to increase the potential range of environmental impacts as light is emitted across a broader range of wavelengths.

Synthesis and applications. The artificial lightscape will change considerably over coming decades with the drive for more cost-effective low-carbon street lighting solutions and growth in the artificially lit area.  Developing lighting strategies that minimize adverse ecological impacts while balancing the often conflicting requirements of light for human utility, comfort and safety, aesthetic concerns, energy consumption and carbon emission reduction constitute significant future challenges.  However, as both lighting technology and understanding of its ecological effects develop, there is potential to identify adaptive solutions that resolve these conflicts.”

A fledgling Newell's Shearwater gets released after being downed by street lights in Hawaii

Photograph by Elizabeth Ames

Reference:

Gaston, K.J., Davies, T.W., Bennie, J. & Hopkins, J. 2012.  Review: reducing the ecological consequences of night-time light pollution: options and developments.  Journal of Animal Ecology 49: 1256-1266.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 July 2014

Australia opens a new Heard Island and McDonald Islands management plan for comment

A draft management plan to replace the existing one published in 2005 for Australia's Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve (HIMI) in the southern Indian Ocean is now open for public comment (click here).

Heard and the McDonald Islands support populations of ACAP-listed seabirds including Black-browed Thalassarche melanophris and Light-mantled Sooty Phoebetria palpebrata Albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus.

“HIMI is one of the least anthropologically disturbed areas in the world and is Australia’s largest International Union for Conservation of Nature Strict Nature Reserve, which is the highest category of protected area recognised by the World Commission on Protected Areas.

The draft management plan has a strong focus on biosecurity and waste management and is the second plan prepared for the Reserve under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.”

Herad Island's central Big Ben with Mawson Peak, photograph by Barbara Wienecke

The reserve covers 71 200 km², including 6200 km² of marine waters added in March this year (click here).

When implemented, the new management plan will direct management of the reserve for 10 years.

Comments are due by 15 August 2014 to Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo. or mailed to:

HIMI Marine Reserve Management Plan Review

Australian Antarctic Division

203 Channel Highway

Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia.

For more information go to www.heardisland.aq.

Selected Literature:

Australian Antarctic Division 2005.  Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve Management Plan.  Kingston: Australian Antarctic Division.  198 pp.

[Australian Antarctic Division] 2014.  Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve Management Plan July 2014.  [Kingston]: Australian Antarctic Division.  112 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 July 2014

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