Seabird track­ing project hailed as ‘pow­er­ful’ con­ser­va­tion tool

● More than 1,300 mon­i­tored in five-year project led by RSPB

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By MAR­TYN MCLAUGH­LIN

Con­ser­va­tion­ists have wel­comed a “ma­jor step for­ward” in at­tempts to safe­guard some of Scot­land’s most im­por­tant seabird pop­u­la­tions, thanks to a satel­lite-track­ing project.

For the first time, re­searchers have mon­i­tored the move­ments of more than 1,300 breed­ing seabirds, show­ing where they go to feed.

The data, col­lated by the RSPB in con­junc­tion with sci­en­tists, has been hailed by the char­ity as “a pow­er­ful tool to help pro­tect birds from po­ten­tially harm­ful ac­tiv­i­ties at sea”.

It is hoped the data will al­low con­ser­va­tion­ists to pro­tect threat­ened species by as­sess­ing po­ten­tial risks from the likes of off­shore wind farms and pol­lu­tion.

In the study, which tracked and mod­elled the be­hav­iour of kit­ti­wakes, shags, ra­zor­bills and guille­mots, GPS tags were fit­ted to the birds, track­ing where they went once they left breed­ing colonies.

The data was used to cre­ate com­puter mod­els to pre­dict im­por­tant ar­eas at sea for other colonies where no track­ing took place, es­ti­mat­ing where birds trav­elled from some 5,500 breed­ing sites. With­post-brex­it­fish­ing poli­cies a key is­sue, the analysis pro­vides crit­i­cal data to in­form ma­rine man­age­ment, the ex­perts said.

Dr Mark Bolton, the RSPB prin­ci­pal con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist, said: “Our rich and di­verse ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment makes Bri­tain and Ire­land among the great­est ar­eas in the world for seabirds and this new re­search is fur­ther ev­i­dence of just how im­por­tant our seas are for seabirds and their chicks dur­ing the breed­ing sea­son.”

The four species stud­ied re­quire con­ser­va­tion help, with kit­ti­wake num­bers de­clin­ing 71 per cent in the past 25 years and shag pop­u­la­tions down 61 per cent, mean­ing both seabirds are “red-listed”. .

The lead au­thor of the re­search, Dr Ewan Wake­field, from the Univer­sity of Glas­gow, said: “For the first time, this study pro­vides us with a full map for each breed­ing colony of the feed­ing ar­eas for some of our most im­por­tant seabird species.

“That means we can now pro­tect the places these birds catch the fish they need to feed their hun­gry chicks, se­cur­ing the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of these amaz­ing crea­tures.”

0 The GPS data re­veals where the four species of en­dan­gered birds go to feed while out at sea off the coast­line of Scot­land

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.