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Two distinct seabird assemblages linked to the major western boundary of the Eastern Australian Current identified

 Daudt Paper Seabird Assemblages 2024Figure 1 from the paper: Study area showing the main ocean currents (a), and seabird records made by season on top of the 1°latitude 1°longitude grid cells (b). In (a), the East Australian Current (EAC) system is highlighted with its acronyms in bold and drawn in blue. The South Equatorial Current (SEC) and its branches, the North Caledonian Jet (NCJ) and South Caledonian Jet (SCJ), are drawn in red. The EAC ’eastern extension’ is an eddy field (blue shaded area) often called the ’Tasman Front’, from which the East Auckland Current originates (EAUC, in green).

Nicholas W. Daudt (Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, Aotearoa, New Zealand) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Progress in Oceanography on the identification of two distinct seabird assemblages and their susceptibility to changing environmental conditions.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Identifying species assemblages helps understand the relationship between organisms and their environment. Assemblages can be used to predict biological changes caused by environmental perturbations, and are thus essential surrogates to monitor biodiversity. In this study, to identify and describe seabird assemblages, we used 15 at-sea ship-based survey data sets collected over 37°of latitude off eastern Australia, from 2016 to 2021. We fitted seasonal Region of Common Profile (RCP) mixture models, for two types of data (presence–absence and abundance). RCP groups are defined as regions where the probability of encountering a particular species profile is constant within regions, but different amongst them. These groups also vary according to covariates, which in our case included oceanographic, climatic, and physiographic parameters. Results were based on 142,646 seabirds recorded from 80 species, including albatrosses, petrels, prions, shearwaters, boobies, and terns, among other taxa. All models suggested two macro-scale assemblages (‘northern’ and ‘southern’), except for the autumn presence–absence model that identified three groups. The model results consistently show a biogeographic transition at 34°S, near the latitude at which the East Australian Current (EAC) separates from the Australian continental slope. Sea surface temperatures or sea surface salinities were selected in all final models, further indicating a close relationship between seabird assemblages and water masses. Results from both data types, presence–absence and abundance, resulted in similar spatial and species profile patterns. RCP models clearly identified two seabird assemblages off the east coast of Australia, suggesting the persistence of these groups at seasonal and macro spatial scales. Given the ongoing poleward intensification that the EAC is experiencing, which is projected to continue over the next century, and its importance in influencing the distributions of seabirds, the methods applied in our study could be replicated to assess possible changes in seabird assemblages and how they are affected by changing environmental conditions.”

Reference:

Daudt, N.W., Woehler, E. J., Schofield, M. R., Smith, R. O., Bugoni, L., Rayment, W. J. 2024. Seabird assemblages are linked to the major western boundary current off eastern Australia. Progress in Oceanography. Vol. 23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2024.103215

12 April 2024

UPDATED. Attacks by House Mice on Marion Island’s threatened albatrosses continue into a new breeding season

Grey headed Albatross wounded chick 2024 Michelle Risi 1A badly wounded Grey-headed Albatross chick that will not survive the onslaught by Marion Island’s House Mice, 17 March 2024

UPDATE: On a return visit to the study colony on 08 April, the wounded Grey-headed Albatross, illustrated above, was found to be still alive with its wounds healing.  However, it wings were drooping and it was noticeably smaller than were surrounding chicks that have not been attacked by mice.  So its survival to fledging is not assured.  The other wounded chick seen on 17 March in the same study colony had not survived.

Nibbled GHA chick healing Michelle Risi 1

Nibbled GHA chick healing Michelle Risi 2
The wounded Grey-headed Albatross chick shows signs of healing, 08 April 2024

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Attacks by introduced House Mice Mus musculus on Marion Island’s albatrosses were first recorded in 2003 – and have continued every breeding season when checks have been made.  First observed on downy chicks, in recent years depredations by the mice have commenced on adult birds incubating or brooding chicks.  Last year’s report of the first observations of adult Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans succumbing to attacks by mice was a further wake-up call, given the bird’s Vulnerable conservation status and that Marion supports a quarter of the world’s population of this iconic species.  Also, the loss of an adult of a long-lived and slow breeding species such as an albatross is far more of a conservation concern than is the loss of a chick.  And now it seems the current 2023/24 breeding season will give no respite to the island’s four species of breeding albatrosses.

This season, mouse attacks have commenced again on Marion’s eponymously named Grey-headed Albatross Ridge.  On 17 March, island researcher Michelle Risi came across the severely wounded Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma chick pictured above on a marked nest in one of the big colony’s long-term study clusters of breeding birds.  This, and another wounded chick seen on the same day, are the first mouse attacks recorded on this Endangered albatross in the current breeding season.  The chick had been videoed in full health a few days previously on 27 February.  The next nest check comes in April, but the chick is not expected to survive.  Eight chick carcasses were also counted at the time, all showing signs of having been scavenged by mice, which, in all likelihood, had commenced feeding on them while they were still alive, leading to their deaths.

Wounded Wanderer 28 March 2024 Michelle Risi 3
Mouse attack!  A Wandering Albatross with a fresh wound continues to tend its chick, 28 March 2024

The mouse slaughter has not stopped with the Grey-headed Albatrosses.  On 28 March, Michelle was in the north of the island near Cape Davis conducting nest checks on Wandering Albatrosses when she came across and photographed a wounded male bird brooding its downy chick.  Fortunately (so far) the chick had not been attacked by mice.  The locality was not that far from where the dead adult Wanderers had been seen in April last year.  Whereas the brooding bird will be relieved by its partner, and if still alive, have an opportunity to recover and heal at sea, it seems likely the breeding attempt will fail, even if the adult escapes death.

  • Wounded Wanderer 28 March 2024 Michelle Risi 1
    The brooding Wandering Albatross displays its wound, 28 March 2024; all photographs by Michelle Risi

The Mouse-Free Marion Project is working towards seeing the end of the island’s mouse plague.

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels & Michelle Risi, Marine Apex Predator Research Unit, Nelson Mandela University, Gqeberha, South Africa, 04 April 2024, updated 11 April 2014

The ACAP Infographic for the Short-tailed Albatross is now available in French and Spanish versions

preview shorttailed fr updated1 

The latest ACAP Species Infographic to be released, the fifteenth in the planned 31-part series, is for the Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrusFollowing its release in English last month, it is now being released in the other two official ACAP languages of French and Spanish.  A Japanese* version is to follow soon, marking the fact that the majority of the species breeds on Japan’s Torishima.  All four language versions of the Short-tailed Albatross infographic have been sponsored by the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology.

The Short-tailed Albatross infographic, along with the next in the series, for the Near Threatened Buller’s Albatross Thalassarche bulleri, currently in production, are being produced in support of this year’s World Albatross Day on 19 June (WAD2024) and its theme of “Marine Protected Areas – Safeguarding our Oceans”.

preview shorttailed Spanish

The ACAP Species Infographic series has been designed to help inform the public, including school learners, of the threats faced by albatrosses and petrels and what is being and can be done to combat them.  They serve to complement the more detailed and referenced ACAP Species Assessments, the concise and illustrated ACAP Species Summaries and the ACAP Photo Essay series.  English and Portuguese** language versions of the infographics produced to date are available to download here.  French and Spanish versions can be found in their respective language menus for the website under Infographies sur les espèces and Infographía sobres las especies.

All the 15 infographics produced to date may be freely downloaded at a high resolution to allow for printing professionally in two poster sizes (approximately A2 and A3).  Please note they are only being made available for personal use or when engaging in activities that will aid in drawing attention to the conservation crisis faced by the world’s albatrosses and petrels – when ACAP will be pleased to receive a mention.  They should not be used for personal gain.

The ACAP Species Infographics have all been created by Thai illustrator Namasri ‘Namo’ Niumim from Bangkok.  Namo is a graduate of the School of Architecture and Design, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design.

With thanks to ‘Pep’ Arcos, Maëlle Connan, Yasuko Suzuki and Naoki Tomita for their help.

*Japanese versions of the infographics for Black-footed P. nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis Albatrosses, both of which breed on Japanese islands, are also in production.

**Being produced for the six ACAP-listed species that regularly visit waters off Brazil.  To date, those produced are for the Tristan Albatross D. dabbenena and the Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris.

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 11 April 2024

 

The Waterbird Society and Pacific Seabird Group will hold a joint meeting in San José, Costa Rica in January 2025

 PSG 2025

The Pacific Seabird Group and the Waterbird Society will meet jointly in San José, Costa Rica over 6-9 January 2025 (click here).

“La Waterbird Society y el Pacific Seabird Group se reunirán conjuntamente en San José, Costa Rica, a principios de 2025. ¡Marque sus calendarios del 6 al 9 de enero! Empiece a hacer planes para una reunión extraordinaria y viaje a un destino increíble. ¡Visite el sitio web para obtener detalles actuales, pero mas detalles sobre la reunion se estaran brindando pronto!”

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 10 April 2024

Recommendations for the use of conservation detection dogs in seabird research and conservation

Woody Stoat dog Auckland CouncilWoody, the Department of Conservation's Stoat-hunting dog, was deployed to Great Barrier Island, photograph by the Auckland Council (click here)

Beth McKeague (School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom) and colleagues have published early view in the journal Seabird on the value of conservation detection dog handler teams supporting the conservation of procellariiform seabirds, such as petrels, shearwaters and storm petrels.

Joanna Sims DabchickNZ 1
All weathers.  Joanna Sims with Miro looking for breeding Black Petrels on Great Barrier Island on a wet day, photograph from DabChickNZ
(click here)

An example included in the paper is using dogs to help protect ACAP-listed Black Petrels Procellaria parkinsoni (categorized both globally and nationally Vulnerable) on New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island/Aotea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Conservation detection dog handler teams (CDDHTs) offer many potential benefits to the world of conservation. Seabird populations are an important component of marine ecosystems.  However, they are threatened by several anthropogenic activities, including the introduction of invasive species.  Although CDDHT can support seabird conservation through invasive species management efforts and population assessments, they are under-utilised.  A lack of methodological standardisation within CDDHT work and the under-publishing of their use within seabird research leads to difficulties in conducting new CDDHT seabird-related studies due to an inability to learn from previous research.  This study aimed to address these shortcomings by investigating the techniques and methods used by those actively working with, or planning to work with, CDDHT on a seabird project to better understand them, and propose best practices in the field.   Seven professionals who have used, or will use, CDDHT as part of a seabird project (four handlers, three ecologists/researchers) participated in structured written surveys which were thematically analysed.  Five superordinate themes emerged from the survey data: Training, Location, Role of Handler, Wildlife Considerations, and Dog Selection Criteria, with the first two themes having several subordinate themes.  A summary of best practices was developed from the findings, with notable recommendations including preparation across all project elements, networking with other professionals, and making judgments on the use of techniques like discrimination and field trials based on the specific project and dog(s).  These results can serve to benefit future seabird studies involving CDDHT as well as supporting the development of standardisation in the CDDHT field."

Read about an ACAP-funded secondment of a detection dog-handler from the South Atlantic to New Zealand’s Conservation Dogs Programme, managed by the Department of Conservation here.

Reference:

McKeague, B., Chapman, S., Cripps, R., González-Solís, J., Hartman, J., Johnson, K., Kerrigan, P., McClelland, G.T.W., Militão, T., Smith, H. & Finlay, C. 2024.  Recommendations for the use of conservation detection dogs in seabird research: a thematic analysis.  Seabird 36(2) doi.org/10.61350/sbj.36.2.

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 09 April 2024

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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