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.

Contact the ACAP Information Officer if you wish to have your news featured.

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Oldies do it better? Parental age, experience and historical reproductive success in Wandering Albatrosses on Marion Island

Genevieve Jones and colleagues (DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa) write in the journal Polar Biology on the effects of age and experience on breeding ability in Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans on South Africa’s Marion Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Growth and survival of altricial young are influenced by their parents’ abilities to invest in a breeding attempt.  As a result, chick growth and survival in one breeding season may be indicative of their parents’ long-term reproductive potential.  To determine whether variation in long-term reproductive success is driven by differential breeding investment, parental care and chick growth in wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) were correlated with parental historical reproductive success.  Effects of age and breeding experience (determined from past breeding attempts) and pre-laying body condition (mass–size indices) on chick growth and survival also were tested.  Longer brooding of chicks increased their survival, but length of chick brooding did not differ between historically unproductive and successful breeders.  Past reproductive success also was not correlated with chick growth rates or fledging mass or size.  Chick brooding period, chick growth rates, final mass and size were independent of parental body condition.  Older and more experienced parents brooded chicks for longer and their chicks grew faster, supporting previous findings that breeding competence is a learnt skill.  Chick care and growth characteristics differed more between than within pairs, suggesting that differences in these characteristics are driven by variation among pairs."

Genevieve Jones with Wandering Albatrosses on Marion Island

Clíck here to read of Genevieve's PhD on Marion's Wanderers.

Reference:

Jones, M.G.W., Dilley, B.J., Hagens, Q.A., Louw, H., Mertz, E.M., Visser, P. & Ryan, P.G. 2014.  The effect of parental age, experience and historical reproductive success on wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) chick growth and survival.  Polar Biology.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 August 2014

                                                                   

Storm petrels are affected by House Mice on an albatross island in the South Atlantic

Mark Bolton (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, UK) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on the effects of House Mice Mus musculus on storm petrels on Steeple Jason, an island in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* that supports a very large population of ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris as well as Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Whilst there is good evidence for negative impacts of introduced rat species on island ecosystems, the effects of house mice (Mus musculus) are generally less well documented. In some situations, introduced house mice can exert severe impacts, particularly where this is the only introduced mammal. Here, we examine the distribution, relative abundance and breeding success of small burrowing seabirds on Steeple Jason Island, Falklands, in relation to habitat types and the distribution of house mice which is the sole introduced mammal species, and we make comparisons with seabird distribution and densities on the neighbouring island of Grand Jason where mice are absent. Grey-backed storm-petrel (Garrodia nereis) and Wilson’s storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), which due to their extremely small size are likely to be the most vulnerable to mouse predation, were considerably more abundant on mouse-free Grand Jason than on Steeple Jason. Grey-backed storm-petrel, which are typically associated with tussac grass, avoided this habitat on Steeple Jason where it is associated with high levels of house mouse activity (assessed from the proportion of wax baits gnawed overnight), whereas on mouse-free Grand Jason, there was no such avoidance. Wilson’s storm-petrel nesting on Steeple Jason suffered high rates of egg and chick loss. Whilst we found evidence for detrimental impacts of house mice on the two small storm-petrel species, there was no relationship between relative mouse activity levels and the distribution or abundance.”

Black-browed Albatrosses on Steeple Jason, photograph by Ian Strange

Click here for a related paper on Steeple Jason's mice.

Reference:

Bolton, M., Stanbury, A., Baylis, A.A.M. & Cuthbert, R.[J.] 2014.  Impact of introduced house mice (Mus musculus) on burrowing seabirds on Steeple Jason and Grand Jason Islands, Falklands, South Atlantic. Polar Biology DOI 10.1007/s00300-014-1554-2.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 August 2014

*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.

New Zealand’s Glenfern Sanctuary protects ACAP-listed Black Petrels in the face of winter storms

Glenfern Sanctuary is a predator-controlled area on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park of New Zealand.

A 2.1-km Xcluder® fence built across the Kotuku Peninsula on inhabited Great Barrier in 2009 by the Glenfern Sanctuary Charitable Trust helps protect Vulnerable and ACAP-listed Black Petrels Procellaria parkinsoni and other burrowing seabirds within the 250-ha sanctuary against feral domestic cats Felis catus, feral pigs Sus scrofa domesticus, Pacific Rats or Kiore Rattus exulans and Norway or Brown Rats R. norvegicus.  Monitoring of over 1000 bait stations and tracking tunnels helps prevent reinvasions of pests becoming established.

Black Petrels, photograph by Biz Bell

In June this year a major storm caused extensive damage to the natural environment on Great Barrier with landslips, fallen trees and foot bridges and parts of the walkways in the sanctuary washed away – as described in the sanctuary’s on-line newsletter (click here).

The winter 2014 newsletter also reports on the last summer’s breeding:

“Seasonal monitoring of blacks and Cooks [Pterodroma cookii] petrels is proving very promising with three areas with both Blacks and Cooks within the Sanctuary and confirmation of fluttering shearwaters [Puffinus gavia] located near the cliffs at the western boundary of the Peninsula. In total, 22 Cooks and 16 black petrel burrows were identified this season, including 17 new burrow locations.  A total of nine Cooks and six black petrels were considered to have fledged successfully based on our monitoring – and thankfully all before the big storm hit.”

Black Petrel Action Group was established in 2011.

Watch a short video on Black Petrel conservation here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 August 2014

Winged ambassadors: teaching ocean literacy to children through the eyes of albatross

The NGO Oikonos - Ecosystem Knowledge has produced an on-line teaching package to inform young students of the threats albatrosses face (click here).  The package is made up of five lessons entitled Introduction to Seabirds; Tracking Albatross Migrations; Protecting Ocean Hotspots; Bolus Analysis; and Campus Debris Survey.

Black-footed Albatross, photograph by Lindsay Young

Each lesson includes:

Lesson plan with learning objectives and procedures; an outline of necessary materials and preparation; time estimates; suggested discussion questions and possible answers; ideas for differentiating activities for diverse learners; expanded resources, videos and links; student worksheets and handouts for photocopying and/or projecting; presentations with photos, art, wildlife research data; and teacher presentation notes to support the lesson.

The activity package was produced by Oikonos - Ecosystem Knowledge and Meghan Marerro in collaboration with the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Click here to download the activity package.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 August 2014

Camera trapping identifies the presence of rats and mice in a Short-tailed Shearwater colony

Anthony Rendall (Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne Australia) and colleagues have published in the open-access journal PloS One on the use of camera traps to detect activity by rodents among breeding Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris on Phillip Island, Australia

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Invasive rodent species have established on 80% of the world’s islands causing significant damage to island environments.  Insular ecosystems support proportionally more biodiversity than comparative mainland areas, highlighting them as critical for global biodiversity conservation.  Few techniques currently exist to adequately detect, with high confidence, species that are trap-adverse such as the black rat, Rattus rattus, in high conservation priority areas where multiple non-target species persist.  This study investigates the effectiveness of camera trapping for monitoring invasive rodents in high conservation areas, and the influence of habitat features and density of colonial-nesting seabirds on rodent relative activity levels to provide insights into their potential impacts.  A total of 276 camera sites were [sic] established and left in situ for 8 days.  Identified species were recorded in discrete 15 min intervals, referred to as ‘events’.  In total, 19 804 events were recorded.  From these, 31 species were identified comprising 25 native species and six introduced.  Two introduced rodent species were detected: the black rat (90% of sites), and house mouse Mus musculus (56% of sites).  Rodent activity of both black rats and house mice were positively associated with the structural density of habitats.  Density of seabird burrows was not strongly associated with relative activity levels of rodents, yet rodents were still present in these areas.  Camera trapping enabled a large number of rodents to be detected with confidence in site-specific absences and high resolution to quantify relative activity levels.  This method enables detection of multiple species simultaneously with low impact (for both target and non-target individuals); an ideal strategy for monitoring trap-adverse invasive rodents in high conservation areas.”

Short-tailed Shearwater, photograph by Mark Carey

Reference:

Rendall, A.R., Sutherland, D.R., Cooke, R. & White, J. 2014.  Camera trapping: a contemporary approach to monitoring invasive rodents in high conservation priority ecosystems.  PloS One doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086592.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 August 2014