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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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The foraging ecology of the Campbell Albatross gets a PhD thesis

Lisa Ann Sztukowski submitted a thesis to Plymouth University and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in partial fulfilment for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in August 2015, based on her research on the foraging ecology of the Campbell Albatross Thalassarche impavida.

The thesis English abstract follows:

“Most albatrosses are critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable due to the deleterious impact of fisheries, pollution, introduced species, habitat alteration, and climate change.  Foraging behaviour influences many aspects of seabird biology, and a detailed understanding of foraging ecology is required to better predict the impacts of significant changes to the marine environment.  Campbell Albatross (Thalassarche impavida) is a threatened endemic, confined to a small number of locations on Campbell Island, New Zealand and was recently split from the closely related Blackbrowed Albatross (T. melanophrys [=melanophris]).  We currently lack much basic information on the foraging behaviour of this species, hindering our ability to understand how change may have occurred in the past and make predictions about it’s [sic] long-term future.  First, I used GPS loggers and stable isotope analysis of blood to investigate how distribution and foraging effort (distance travelled and duration) varied with sex and breeding stage.  I found that Campbell Albatrosses are sexually dimorphic and showed sex-specific foraging behaviour and habitat use – although this varied by stage of reproduction.  Because males and females may be vulnerable to different threats, such as interactions with fisheries, I compared the spatial overlap and high resolution spatio-temporal overlaps between fisheries vessels and albatrosses within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Albatrosses utilised 32% of the EEZ, however they overlapped with fisheries vessels in only 0.20% of the area. Previous research has demonstrated that the influence of fisheries vessels goes beyond the immediate location of the boat itself. Campbell Albatross have low levels of spatio-temporal overlap with fisheries – with males overlapping more than females. More generally, my results indicate that adding data on fine scale interactions will improve fisheries risk assessments, and provide information needed for the conservation and management of the Campbell Albatross.  A key development in recent ecological research has been a greater appreciation that inter-individual variation in foraging behaviour can have profound population-level consequences.  Accordingly I tested for individual differences in foraging behaviour in Campbell Albatrosses.  The majority of individuals demonstrated both annual and interannual individual consistency in foraging locations, and the degree of specialisation was influenced by both sex and year.  Consistent terminal latitude and longitude of foraging trips indicated high foraging area fidelity with a degree of flexibility in the fine-scale location.  During brooding, females used the Campbell Plateau and showed more consistent behaviours than males, which tended to forage in the Southern Ocean.  This adds to a growing body of evidence of individual foraging specialisation among seabirds in general and albatrosses in particular and reveals marked inter-individual differences in vulnerability to threats.  In light of the evidence of individual foraging specialisations in the Campbell albatross, I also preformed [sic] a literature review of individual foraging specialisations across all seabirds.  I found studies examining foraging specialisation for 35 species, with 28 (80%) providing evidence of consistent inter-individual differences (i.e. specialisation).  Current studies suggest that specialisation is influenced by environmental variability vii and resource predictability, however, with limited data in tropical regions, more studies are needed to test these links.  In summary, my thesis has provided new information on Campbell Albatross foraging ecology.  Sex specific variations in behaviour and habitat use may influence conservation and management strategies. I have been able to contextualise the consistent individual differences in foraging distribution described for this species in light of global patterns of individual foraging specialisation in seabirds and highlight future areas of research.”

A Campell Albatross grooms its chick; photograph  by David Evans


Sztukowski, L.A. 2016.  Foraging Ecology of the Campbell Albatross: Individual Specialisation and Fishery Interactions.  PhD thesis, School of Marine Science and Engineering Marine Biology & Ecology Research Centre.  163 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 September 2016

"Scale Matters": the next SCAR Biology Symposium is to be held in Belgium in July next year

The XIIth Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR) Biology Symposium will take place over 10-14 July 2017 (with workshops either side) at the University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

“The main theme is "Scale Matters".  From the small molecular scale, through population and large ecosystem scale, biological processes and diversity span all these levels.  Understanding these processes, as well past and present patterns of biodiversity, are essential for understanding possible threats to Antarctic biology and their impact.  With this Symposium we want to focus on understanding biological distribution and trends, as well as adaptation and processes both in the marine and terrestrial realm, including the human biology.  Special attention will be paid to multidisciplinary research and how combining insight from different fields can help our understanding of biology in this unique region.  An important aspect of this symposium will focus on the societal impact of Antarctic biological sciences and how this can be communicated, not only to the general public, but also to policy makers.”

White-phase Southern Giant Petrel on Bouvet Island, photograph by Greg Hofmeyr

The following sessions have been proposed; more can be proposed (click here).

Theme 1:  Distribution and trends

Theme 2:  Adaptation and processes

Theme 3:  New insights through multi-disciplinary research

Theme 4:  Threats and impacts

Theme 5:  Societal impact of Antarctic biological science

Theme 6: Human biology at the poles.

Click here for more information on the above six sub-themes.

Registration and abstract (deadline 15 February 2017) submission will open next month.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 September 2016

Experimentally increased reproductive effort leads to lower breeding success in the following season in Manx Shearwaters

Annette Fayet (Oxford Navigation Group, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Animal Ecology on the results of manipulating the length of chick-rearing periods in Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus by cross fostering.

The paper’s summary follows:

Long-lived migratory animals must balance the cost of current reproduction with their own condition ahead of a challenging migration and future reproduction.  In these species, carry-over effects, which occur when events in one season affect the outcome of the subsequent season, may be particularly exacerbated.  However, how carry-over effects influence future breeding outcomes and whether (and how) they also affect behaviour during migration and wintering is unclear.

Here we investigate carry-over effects induced by a controlled, bidirectional manipulation of the duration of reproductive effort on the migratory, wintering and subsequent breeding behaviour of a long-lived migratory seabird, the Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus.  By cross-fostering chicks of different age between nests, we successfully prolonged or shortened by ∼25% the chick-rearing period of 42 breeding pairs.  We tracked the adults with geolocators over the subsequent year and combined migration route data with at-sea activity budgets obtained from high-resolution saltwater-immersion data.  Migratory behaviour was also recorded during non-experimental years (the year before and/or two years after manipulation) for a subset of birds, allowing comparison between experimental and non-experimental years within treatment groups.

All birds cared for chicks until normal fledging age, resulting in birds with a longer breeding period delaying their departure on migration; however, birds that finished breeding earlier did not start migrating earlier.  Increased reproductive effort resulted in less time spent at the wintering grounds, a reduction in time spent resting daily and a delayed start of breeding with lighter eggs and chicks and lower breeding success the following breeding season. Conversely, reduced reproductive effort resulted in more time resting and less time foraging during the winter, but a similar breeding phenology and success compared with control birds the following year, suggesting that ‘positive’ carry-over effects may also occur but perhaps have a less long-lasting impact than those incurred from increased reproductive effort.

Our results shed light on how carry-over effects can develop and modify an adult animal's behaviour year-round and reveal how a complex interaction between current and future reproductive fitness, individual condition and external constraints can influence life-history decisions.”

Manx shearwater Nathan Fletcher s 

Manx Shearwater at sea, photograph by Nathan Fletcher

Read more on the research here.


Fayet, A.L., Freeman, R., Shoji, A., Kirk, H.L., Padget, O., Perrins, C.M. & Guilford, T. 2016.  Carry-over effects on the annual cycle of a migratory seabird: an experimental study.  Journal of Animal Ecology DOI:10.1111/1365-2656.12580.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 September 2015

155 500 pairs of White-chinned Petrels call New Zealand’s Disappointment Island home

Kalinka Rexer-Huber (Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on a population survey of the ACAP-listed White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis on Disappointment Island in the sub-Antarctic Auckland Island group.

“The white-chinned petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis is one of the most frequently observed seabird species captured in fisheries bycatch, yet some populations remain virtually unstudied.  The size of the breeding population on the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands, New Zealand, is unknown.  Disappointment Island is thought to be the main white-chinned petrel breeding site in the Auckland Islands, and maybe also in the New Zealand region, and has never had introduced mammalian predators.  We estimated the white-chinned petrel breeding population size taking into account the detection probability of burrows via distance sampling and the burrow occupancy rate.  Eighty line transects were distributed over the island, with a total line length of 1600 m.  Burrows were patchily distributed and most abundant in dense megaherb communities.  White-chinned petrel burrow densitywas 654 burrows/ha (95 % CI 528–809 burrows/ha), with burrow detection probability varying among vegetation communities from 0.28 ± 0.02 to 0.43 ± 0.02 (±SE). Mean burrow occupancy was 0.73 ± 0.03.  We document an estimated total of 155,500 (125,600–192,500) breeding pairs of white-chinned petrels on Disappointment Island during mid incubation in early January 2015.  The relatively high occupancy and density of burrows suggest that Disappointment Island is a key breeding site for white-chinned petrels.”


Disappointment Island, photograph by Paul Sagar

White-chinned Petrels, photograph by David Boyle

With thanks to Kalinka Rexer-Huber.



Rexer-Huber, K., Parker, G.C., Sagar, P.M. & Thompson, D.R. 2016.  White-chinned petrel population estimate, Disappointment Island (Auckland Islands).  Polar Biology. doi:10.1007/s00300-016-2031-x.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 September 2016

Governmental support for Antarctic Marine Protected Areas at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii

Protection of Antarctica’s marine environment received support at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress being held in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA when 107 governmental members (96%) voted in favour of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean.  Only four governmental members voted against the motion, although 45 abstained.  A total of 507 non-governmental organizations (97%) also voted in favour (click here).

The adopted IUCN Congress motion urges the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to designate marine reserves in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica.  Both proposed MPAs will offer formal support for the more southerly-ranging ACAP-listed species, such as Light-mantled Albatross Phoebastria palpebrata and Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus, as well as for other marine biota.

Light mantled sooty albatross by Aleks Terauds 

Light-mantled Albatrosses, photograph by Aleks Terauds 

CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee and Commission meet in Hobart, Australia next month, when it is expected the proposed MPAs, will, once more, come up for discussion.

The IUCN represents over 1300 member organizations, including states, government agencies, scientific and academic institutions, business associates and non-governmental organizations.

Click here to read of previous progress by CCAMLR towards the new Antarctic MPAs.

A news item on the vote can be read here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 September 2016

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.

About ACAP

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