Demographic and tracking data of black browed albatross on New Island

by iLaria Marengo

New Island is one of the islands of the Falklands’ archipelago and lies to the west of West Falkland. It is approximately 22.7 square km; the northern and western coastline is characterised by precipitous and breath-taking cliffs (max 200 metres). These are perfect locations for black browed albatross (BBA), rockhopper and shags colonies. In contrast, the eastern coastline is lower lying or has smaller cliffs and scarps. Sandy beaches are scattered throughout the northern and southern ends and centre of the island and offer perfect places for penguins, sea lions and, less frequently, elephant seals to come ashore or depart for the open sea. New Island is owned by the New Island Conservation Trust (http://www.falklandswildlife.com/), which is a non-profit charitable conservation organisation and aims at assuring the future of the island as wildlife reserve in perpetuity.

Conservation is therefore the main activity carried out on New Island: currently there are researchers from all over the world studying demographic, migratory behaviour, and foraging ecology of gentoo, rockhopper and magellanic penguins, black browed albatrosses, striated caracara, thin-billed prions, white chinned petrels, southern giant petrels and Falkland skuas. The amazing diversity of species and their “accessibility” makes New Island a special place. This is helped greatly by the good infrastructure (accommodation and lab space) provided by the Trust that allows researchers to carry out field work and long terms studies. Along with seabirds, plants and habitats have also been the focus of studies, the most recent being the broad scale habitat mapping carried out by Dr Rebecca Upson in 2010-2011.

While visiting the Island in early November it was extremely interesting to participate in the field work conducted by Dr Letizia Campioni, who is a postdoc at the ISPA-Instituto Universitario of Lisbon and one of the members of the team of scientists led by Dr Paulo Catry. Since 2003 the team from Portugal has been conducting yearly monitoring of the BBA colonies at the so called “Settlement rookery”. Through the collection of data (such as count of breeding pairs, eggs and chicks) and the ringing of breeding or immature birds as well as chicks, researchers obtain information that helps to understand the dynamics of the albatross populations. The main goal of such long-term project is to use these demographic data as a tool for conservation and environmental monitoring. Further details on the Albatross Project at:

https://sites.google.com/site/projectoalbatroz/Home.

At the same time, the team collected ecological and behavioral data. In the latest years, Dr Letizia Campioni has been focusing her work on immature BBA, studying the foraging ecology, foraging specialisation and strategies during the breeding and wintering season. She is doing this by sampling blood and feathers for stable isotope composition and by tracking birds using GPS-loggers, activity loggers and geolocators. These data will enable the identification and modelling of the parameters that are driving population changes and relate those to environmental variables (i.e. climate and fisheries) and management practices (fisheries regulations).

The team, led by Dr Paulo Catry, also conducts low to medium intensity biological and monitoring studies of two predators of chicks: the Falkland Skuas and the Striated Caracaras (Johnny Rooks).

Overall, the data gathered and analysed by the researchers in New Island will provide a better understanding of the population dynamics, their distribution and relationship with resources (e.g. food), other environmental variables (e.g. climate, oceanography) and human activities. In addition, the metadata of these data will be kept available through an online catalogue. Metadata will offer the opportunity to quickly find the data that has already been collected. As such, it will facilitate data sharing and increase scientific partnerships and collaborations, with benefits and advantages for both the conservation of wildlife in New Island and the researchers.

IMG_7218 IMG_7571 IMG_7576 IMG_7486

Please like & share:

Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP)

Hello, I’m Anne, the ACAP Co-ordinator, working for JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) and hosted by SAERI. JNCC are the statutory advisor to the UK government on UK and international nature conservation (www.jncc.defra.gov.uk). The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) came into force in 2004 (www.acap.aq) and it currently has 13 signatories.

Wandererbyiceberg FI

The main objective of the Agreement is to maintain favourable conservation status for albatross and petrel species that are listed under the Agreement. The UK, including on behalf of its South Atlantic Overseas Territories (SAOTs), ratified ACAP in 2004, shortly after it came into force. The SAOTs of Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Tristan da Cunha, and the British Antarctic Territories are all included in the ratification.

All 22 albatross species are listed under ACAP, as well as seven species of petrel, and one species of shearwater. Relevant species for the UK include the Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris of which approximately 70% of the global breeding population is present in the Falkland Islands, the Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena which is endemic to the Tristan da Cunha Islands, and the White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis whose largest global breeding population is found in South Georgia. My role is to co-ordinate the UK’s efforts to meet its obligations under ACAP. An important aspect of the work is the collation of breeding and fisheries by-catch data from all SAOTs, and from this to produce the UK ACAP implementation reports. These reports have recently been completed, and I am now preparing for the 8th Advisory Committee meeting, which will be held in Punta del Este in Uruguay in September.

Being based in the Falkland Islands means I am ideally placed to work with the SAOT governments, NGOs, landowners and other relevant groups. The other half of my role is JNCC South Atlantic Overseas Territories Conservation Officer. This involves providing support and advice on a variety on conservation issues and projects to the SAOTs already mentioned plus St Helena and Ascension Island. This could include anything from the protection of endemic plants, rodent eradication, or fisheries licensing and enforcement. Needless to say the job is very varied and interesting and I’m looking forward to what the next few months bring.

Please like & share: