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Demographic parameters of black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris from the Falkland Islands

Abstract

Black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris are currently classified as globally endangered. The most important populations of this species are believed to be declining due to, amongst other factors, unsustainable levels of incidental mortality in fishing gear. However, detailed demographic data are lacking for several critical populations, including the largest of all, nesting in the Falkland Islands. Here, we present data from the first Falkland Islands detailed demographic study (at New Island) and show that, from 2003 to 2009, the mean adult survival probability was 0.942 (95% CI: 0.930–0.952). Nesting frequency of adults is amongst the highest recorded for Thalassarche albatrosses and breeding success (0.564 chicks per egg) is within normal values. The nesting population in the intensively studied plots experienced an increase of 4% per year from 2004 to 2009. These results indicate that the Falklands population may not be as threatened as previously supposed, although studies from more sites and a longer time series are needed to confirm or refute this. The high survival rates may partly reflect recent efforts to mitigate bycatch made by the Falkland Islands and other fisheries in the region. The reinforcement of such initiatives may be critical to buffer the black-browed albatross population against ecosystem shifts and natural disasters (such as harmful algal blooms) that will likely become more frequent with ongoing global changes.

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Acknowledgments

The long-term monitoring of black-browed albatrosses on New Island has benefited from the committed long-term support of the Falkland Islands Government, as well as from projects funds provided by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT-Portugal) through Projecto Albatroz (PTDC/MAR/099366/2008) and as part of the Programa Plurianual (UI&D 331/94). Further support was received from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through an Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) grant (FAL 201). The New Island Conservation Trust, an NGO and charity, supported field studies on their New Island reserve, through the supply of research facilities, accommodation, and subsistence. Without the support and encouragement from Ian Strange, this study would never have taken place. Rafael Matias, Miguel Lecoq, and Orea Anderson helped with fieldwork. Maria Strange, Shona Strange, Georgina Strange, Dan Birch, Helen Otley, Nick Rendell, Anton Wolfaardt and Leigh Wolfaardt provided logistical and moral support in the field and in Stanley. Inês Catry, John Croxall, Christophe Barbraud and two anonymous reviewers commented on a previous draft. All work was approved by the Falkland Islands Government.

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Correspondence to Paulo Catry.

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Catry, P., Forcada, J. & Almeida, A. Demographic parameters of black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris from the Falkland Islands. Polar Biol 34, 1221–1229 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-011-0984-3

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Keywords

  • New Island
  • Bycatch
  • Demography
  • Red tide
  • Patagonian shelf