A novel projection technique to identify important at-sea areas for seabird conservation: An example using Northern gannets breeding in the North East Atlantic

W. James Grecian*, Matthew J. Witt, Martin J. Attrill, Stuart Bearhop, Brendan J. Godley, David Grémillet, Keith C. Hamer, Stephen C. Votier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Seabirds are well monitored and protected at their breeding grounds but spend most of their life at sea, where they are less well monitored and afforded little protection. In an attempt to address this dichotomy, attention has been directed toward establishing a network of marine reserves for seabirds, based largely on information from at-sea surveys and/or biotelemetry studies. Nevertheless, these approaches are costly, are typically only available for a limited number of locations, and not suitable for species that have either poor at-sea detectability or are unable to carry tracking devices. Here we develop a technique to identify important areas for breeding seabirds based on at-sea projections from colonies. Synthesising data from colony surveys with detailed information on population dynamics, foraging ecology and near-colony behaviour, we project colony-specific foraging distributions of the Northern gannet (. Morus bassanus) at colonies in the UK, Ireland and France. We test the ability of our models to identify at-sea hotspots through comparison with existing data from biotelemetry studies and at-sea visual surveys. These models show a positive spatial correlation with one of the most intensive at-sea seabird survey datasets. While there are limitations to estimating at-sea distributions of seabirds, implemented appropriately, we propose they could prove useful in identifying potential Marine Protected Areas for seabirds. Moreover, these models could be developed to suit a range of species or whole communities and provide a theoretical framework for the study of factors such as colony size regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume156
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

Keywords

  • At-sea surveys
  • Biotelemetry
  • Foraging behaviour
  • Important bird areas
  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Morus bassanus
  • Predictive modelling

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