Demographic parameters of black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris from the Falkland Islands
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.
Authors: Catry, Paulo, Forcada, Jaume, Almeida, Ana