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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"Do fence me in!" ACAP’s latest listed species, the Pink-footed Shearwater, is to get a predator-proof fence

The Vulnerable Pink-footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus, a Chilean endemic, is the most recently listed ACAP species, being added to the Agreement in May this year (click here).  Its conservation status is now about to improve with some fencing.

 

Pink-footed Shearwater, photograph by Peter Hodum

With funding from the American Bird Conservancy, the Municipality of Juan Fernández, Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and Corporación Nacional Forestal (Chile's National Forest Corporation, CONAF) have started transferring material to Robinson Crusoe Island for the construction of a predator-proof fence in an area of the island known as Tierras Blancas.  The fence will cover about 20 ha and will be 1700 m in length.  The Tierras Blancas fence will protect several important species in the Archipiélago Juan Fernández, including a major Pink-footed Shearwater colony, a Juan Fernández Fur Seal Arctocephalus philippii colony, and a fern that was recently rediscovered in the area after it was thought to be extinct.

According to Oikonos, “this fence will start the process of ecological protection from a host of introduced predators.”

Information from the Oikonos Facebook page.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 September 2015

"99% of all species by 2050". Ingestion of plastics is increasing in seabirds according to a new study

Chris Wilcox (Oceans and Atmosphere Business Unit, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Hobart, Australia) and colleagues have published early online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on the growing occurrence of ingested plastic in seabirds (click here). Ingestion of plastics has been reported or is known for most (if not all) of the 31 species of ACAP-listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Plastic pollution in the ocean is a global concern; concentrations reach 580,000 pieces per km2 and production is increasing exponentially.  Although a large number of empirical studies provide emerging evidence of impacts to wildlife, there has been little systematic assessment of risk.  We performed a spatial risk analysis using predicted debris distributions and ranges for 186 seabird species to model debris exposure.  We adjusted the model using published data on plastic ingestion by seabirds. Eighty of 135 (59%) species with studies reported in the literature between 1962 and 2012 had ingested plastic, and, within those studies, on average 29% of individuals had plastic in their gut.  Standardizing the data for time and species, we estimate the ingestion rate would reach 90% of individuals if these studies were conducted today.  Using these results from the literature, we tuned our risk model and were able to capture 71% of the variation in plastic ingestion based on a model including exposure, time, study method, and body size.  We used this tuned model to predict risk across seabird species at the global scale.  The highest area of expected impact occurs at the Southern Ocean boundary in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, which contrasts with previous work identifying this area as having low anthropogenic pressures and concentrations of marine debris.  We predict that plastics ingestion is increasing in seabirds, that it will reach 99% of all species by 2050, and that effective waste management can reduce this threat.”

A decomposed corpse of a Laysan Albatross chick on Midway Atoll showing a high level of ingested plastic, photograph by Chris Jordan

See popular news articles on the publication:

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-01/scientists-warn-almost-all-seabirds-will-ingest-plastic-by-2050/6738862

http://news.sciencemag.org/environment/2015/08/nearly-every-seabird-may-be-eating-plastic-2050

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/almost-every-seabird-will-have-eaten-plastic-by-2050-because-of-ocean-pollution-10480117.html

Reference:

Wilcox, C., Van Sebille, E.& Hardesty, B.D.2015.  Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  DOI10.1073/pnas.1502108112.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 September 2015

Annual expedition sails from Cape Town today to conduct conservation research on ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels on Gough Island

As far back as the late 1970s marine ornithologists have travelled each year to Gough Island in the South Atlantic to conduct research on its threatened populations of albatrosses and petrels.  These trips have formed part of South Africa’s annual relief of its weather station on the island.  This year’s expedition sails from Cape Town today on the Antarctic research and supply vessel, the m.v. S.A. Agulhas II.

As in recent years, seabird research and monitoring on Gough will concentrate on globally threatened species, including the near-endemic and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, the Endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos and the Endangered Sooty Albatross Phoebastria fusca.  All three ACAP-listed species face fatal attacks on their chicks by Gough’s House Mice Mus musculus.  Research will also take place on the two other ACAP-listed species that breed on Gough: the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus (Least Concern) and the Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea (Near Threatened), with the latter species also recently proven to be at risk to mice (click here).

A female Tristan Albatross incubates on Gough Island, photograph by John Cooper

Three field researchers on the expedition will remain on Gough until October 2016, residing in the weather station.  This year they are Jan Bradley (from South Africa, on his sixth visit since 2010) and Derren Fox and Chris Taylor (both from the UK).  The 2014/15 field team of Christopher Jones, Werner Kuntz and Michelle Risi will be returning on the ship next month.  The new team will continue monitoring of albatrosses and petrels during their 13-month stay, as well as continuing with alien plant control in the vicinity of the weather station.

The ornithological component of the expedition is being led by Peter Ryan, Director of the University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute and Alex Bond from the RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science.  Accompanying them on the trip this year are Richard Phillips (British Antarctic Survey and also Co-convenor of ACAP’s Population and Conservation Status Working Group) who will be helping to retrieve GLS loggers deployed on prions Pachyptila spp. last year and Mark Dagleish, a veterinary pathologist from the Moredun Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, who will be screening the island’s endemic land birds for diseases and parasites.

An aerial photographic survey by South African helicopter of Tristan da Cunha’s population of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses will also be attempted during the expedition (if weather conditions allow) when the S.A. Agulhas II visits Tristan on her voyage back to South Africa in early October.

Click here for news of last year’s expedition.

With thanks to Peter Ryan for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 September 2015

Stress physiology of Wandering Albatrosses gets studied

David Costantini (Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Wilrijk, Belgium) and colleagues have published in the online and open-access journal PloS One on the stress physiology of Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans of known breeding history.

One of the major challenges in ecological research is the elucidation of physiological mechanisms that underlie the demographic traits of wild animals.  We have assessed whether a marker of plasma oxidative stress (TBARS) and plasma haptoglobin (protein of the acute inflammatory phase response) measured at time t predict five demographic parameters (survival rate, return rate to the breeding colony, breeding probability, hatching and fledging success) in sexually mature wandering albatrosses over the next four years (Diomedea exulans) using a five-year individual-based dataset.  Non-breeder males, but not females, having higher TBARS at time t had reduced future breeding probabilities; haptoglobin was not related to breeding probability.  Neither TBARS nor haptoglobin predicted future hatching or fledging success.  Haptoglobin had a marginally positive effect on female survival rate, while TBARS had a marginally negative effect on return rate.  Our findings do not support the role for oxidative stress as a constraint of future reproductive success in the albatross.  However, our data point to a potential mechanism underlying some aspects of reproductive senescence and survival.  Our results also highlight that the study of the consequences of oxidative stress should consider the life-cycle stage of an individual and its reproductive history.

 

Displaying Wandering Albatrosses, photograph by Rowan Treblico

Reference:

Costantini, D., Goutte, A., Barbraud, C., Faivre, B., Sorci, G., Weimerskirch, H., Delord, K. & Chastel, O.  2015.  Demographic responses to oxidative stress and inflammation in the Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans).  PloS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133967.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 September 2015

The water sprayer: a new seabird mitigation device for fishing trawlers performs well under test

A new seabird mitigation device called a water sprayer being developed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is reported to reduce seabird interactions with the cables or warps used to tow nets from trawlers by 90% (click here).

“The water sprayer sits over each warp and rains a heavy stream of water down on the area where the warps enter the sea.  This stream can be aimed at the warp to allow for wind and whether the vessel is fishing shallow or deep.  If the vessel is fishing deep the angle of the warp is steeper and it is closer to the vessel.”

The water sprayer has been developed using Australian Government funding.  A video of it in action can be viewed here.  The project is ongoing and testing of a second device is still underway.

Black-browed Albatrosses gather in large numbers around a trawler, photograph by Graham Parker

Read more on AFMA’s efforts to mitigate seabird mortality by trawlers.

Click here to access ACAP’s best-practice advice for mitigating seabird mortality by both pelagic and demersal trawlers.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 September 2015

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