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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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A movement ecology framework for albatrosses

Sarah Gutowsky (Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) has published early online in the free-access journal Marine Ornithology on developing a conceptual framework for the drivers of albatross movements at sea utilizing bio-logging information from a total of 117 peer-reviewed papers published between 1990 and 2015 and covering 20 of the 22 albatross species.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The objective of movement ecology is to understand the connections among factors that drive why, when, where, and how organisms move. The basic movement ecology framework (MEF) envisions how four major components (internal state, navigation capacity, motion capacity, and external elements) interact to generate an individual’s movement path. Empirical studies of movement have become increasingly sophisticated as a result of advancements in animal-attached biologging technologies that estimate movement paths. These tools have been applied extensively in the study of marine animal movement, particularly the highly mobile and threatened albatrosses (Diomedeidae). Despite the volume of albatross-biologging movement research, the complex factors and processes that govern the movements of these birds have not before been unified into a comprehensive framework. This paper aims to accomplish two main objectives: (1) integration of ideas from across disciplines to build a custom MEF for albatross, resulting in the identification of 45 discrete factors and their interactions; and (2) use of this MEF to survey the albatross-biologging movement literature for trends, shortcomings, and future directions. As the sophistication of analytical and biologging tools continues to grow, so too will the breadth and complexity of processes invoked and investigated to explain albatross movements at all spatiotemporal scales.”

A Wandering Albatross at sea: the most tracked species, photograph by John Chardine


Gutowsky, S.E. 2017. A conceptual framework for the drivers of albatross movement. Marine Ornithology 45: 23-38.

Appendix 1: Supplementary Information — Results of albatross-biologging movement literature review

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 January 2017

Rats preying upon seabird eggs: an experimental test

Nina O’Hanlon (Department of Biology, University of York, UK) and Mark Lambert have published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research on testing rat predation on seabird eggs using artificial nests.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Introduced rat species have been implicated in the decline and local extirpation of numerous seabird species from islands across the globe, leading to widespread eradications as a conservation tool. However, little conclusive evidence has been established to determine the direct mechanisms in which rat and seabird species interact. This study aimed to quantify rates of egg predation by brown rats Rattus norvegicus using automated trail cameras at seabird nests baited with domestic quail and hen eggs to represent different-sized seabird eggs. The trail cameras were in situ for a total of 915 days during June and July 2011. Evidence for rats visiting the experimental nests was only observed at one location, where 19 visits were recorded, and no evidence of rat predation on hen or quail eggs was observed. Low levels of rat activity were observed during the study; therefore, it is not possible to conclude that rats never predate [sic] seabird eggs as predation may be more likely when rat densities are higher and pressure on food resources greater. This study does however highlight that where rats occur at low densities, predation of eggs is unlikely. Measures aimed at maintaining low abundance of rats in and around vulnerable seabird colonies may therefore be useful where complete eradication is not feasible, although potential for predation of chicks should also be considered.”

Manx Shearwater: at risk to rodents; photograph by Nathan Fletcher


O’Hanlon, N.J. & Lambert, M.S 2017.  Investigating brown rat Rattus norvegicus egg predation using experimental nests and camera traps.  European Journal of Wildlife Research.  doi:10.1007/s10344-016-1063-4.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 January 2017

Enriching the forest floor: Westland Petrels boost levels of Selenium at breeding sites

David Hawke (Department of Applied Sciences & Allied Health, Ara Institute of Canterbury,  Christchurch, New Zealand) and colleagues have published in the journal Science of the Total Environment on the contributions of Selenium by ACAP-listed Westland Petrels Procellaria westlandica to their forest-breeding environment.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Endemic Westland petrels (Procellaria westlandica) are a remnant of extensive seabird populations that occupied the forested hill country of prehuman New Zealand. Because seabird guano is rich in Se, an often-deficient essential element, we proposed that Westland petrels enhance Se concentrations in ecosystems associated with their breeding grounds. We sampled terrestrial (soil, plants, riparian spiders) and freshwater (benthic invertebrates, fish) components from Westland petrel-enriched and non-seabird forests on the western coast of New Zealand's South Island, an area characterised by highly leached, nutrient-poor soils. Median seabird soil Se was an order of magnitude higher than soil from non-seabird sites (2.2 mg kg− 1  compared to 0.2 mg kg− 1), but corresponding plant foliage concentrations (0.06 mg kg− 1; 0.05 mg kg− 1) showed no difference between seabird and non-seabird sites. In streams, Se ranged from 0.05 mg kg− 1  (riparian foliage) to 3.1 mg kg− 1  (riparian spiders and freshwater mussels). However, there was no difference between seabird and non-seabird streams. Stoichiometric ratios (N:Se, P:Se) showed Se loss across all ecosystem components relative to seabird guano, except in seabird colony soil where N was lost preferentially. On Seabirds therefore did not enrich the terrestrial plants and associated stream ecosystems in Se. We conclude that incorporation of trace elements brought ashore by seabirds cannot be assumed, even though seabirds are a significant source of marine-derived nutrients and trace elements to coastal ecosystems world-wide.”


Westland Petrel on the forest floor, photograph by Susan Waugh 

Read of a related paper here.


David J. Hawke, D.J., Gamlen-Greene, R., Harding, J.S. & Leishman, D. 2017.  Minimal ecosystem uptake of selenium from Westland petrels, a forest-breeding seabird.  Science of the Total Environment 574: 148-154.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 January 2017

Doyen island eradication helicopter pilot Peter Garden becomes an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Peter Garden, an island eradication helicopter pilot, of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list for “services to aviation and conservation”.

“Regarded as one of the world’s best eradication helicopter pilots, Mr Garden (70) has been involved with numerous predator eradication projects both in New Zealand and around the world. He was the chief pilot for the predator eradication programme on Campbell Island and the lead pilot during other habitat restoration on the Seychelles, the Aleutian Islands and a number of Pacific Islands.  From 2013 projects to 2015 he was the helicopter adviser and flight operations manager on the project to eradicate rats [and mice] from South Georgia [Islas Georgias del Sur]*, in the southern Atlantic Ocean” (click here).

The New Zealand Order of Merit was instituted by a Royal Warrant dated 30 May 1996.  The Order is awarded to those “who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions, or other merits”.

It was a great pleasure for me to spend a night camping on Gough Island with Peter in 2013 when he assisted in the annual monitoring of a long-term study colony of colour-banded Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus.  Peter was along on the visit to advise on plans to eradicate the island's mice. 

The South Georgia Heritage Trust has offered its own congratulations to Peter Garden (click here).  The Albatross and Petrel Agreement also offers its congratulations to Peter for the well-deserved honour he has received.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 January 2016

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

Near Threatened shearwaters found dumped with their throats slit and skulls smashed in New Zealand

The New Zealand NGO Forest & Bird has reported that 14 shearwaters were found mutilated and dumped near Ruakaka in New Zealand in October.  Thirteen recently categorized Near Threatened Flesh-footed Shearwaters Ardenna carneipes and one Near Threatened Sooty Shearwater A. grisea reportedly had their throats slit, skulls smashed and wings broken.

“Forest and Bird says the birds may have been caught in a beach-based long line.  The way the birds had been dumped indicated they had been poured out of a fish bin.”


Flesh-footed Shearwater at sea, photograph by Tim Reid

Click here for more information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 January 2017

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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