Austral seabirds: challenges and opportunities for research and conservation
Knight, Ben; Moller, Henrik; Bradley, Stuart; Davis, Margeret
This paper draws together the themes of papers on procellariiform biology contained within this special issue of the Papers and Proceedings ofthe Royal Society ofTasmania which is a tribute to Irynej Skira. The role of these birds as generalised biomonitors of marine ecosystem health as well as their important interactions with commercial fisheries and human societies are major considerations. Seabird conservation faces challenges from introduced pest loss of habitat to urban development, marine pollution and climate and oceanographic changes. Studies are hampered by the difficulties of dealing with birds in remote areas (that are therefore expensive to study), a paucity of funds and problems of overlapping national and international jurisdictions in their individual home ranges or on their migration routes. There is a real need for long-term studies ofseabirds because they have delayed breeding systems, a slow rate ofreproduction, long life-spans and high adult survival. Such knowledge is important in understanding their population dynamics, the effects of changing climate, the impacts of commercial fishing, pollution, breeding habitat loss and the harvesting of chicks. The value of the long-term studies of Shorttailed Shearwaters, Puffinus tenuirostris on Fisher Island, Tasmania, is considered in the light of the importance of research investment in basic curiosity-driven research. Neglect of long-term studies and the diminishing role of local scientific journals in the dissemination of baseline data on which to build generalities are the result of changing priorities of government and other funding agencies towards shortterm output-based assessment models. Our present inability to answer the basic question of what determines seabird population abundance and distribution highlights a lack of fundamental population data in Austral seabird research. This must be addressed so that a mixture of comparative, experimental and modelling studies can be mobilised to complement descriptive studies.
Publisher: Royal Society of Tasmania
Rights Statement: Copyright Royal Society of Tasmania
Keywords: Procellariiformes; seabird ecology; conservation management; research funding; long-term research
Research Type: Journal Article