Seabird research and conservation in South Africa
Institute for Coastal and Marine Research, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa email@example.com
(Seminar in English)
The Benguela upwelling system is teaming with endemic marine life, including several seabird species. It is, however, under-going rapid changes recently, notably from anthropogenic origin. Since 2004, I investigated the flexibility and limits of some South African seabirds to respond to ecosystem variability. In particular, I focused on how competition with industrial fisheries over decreasing fish stocks can affect seabirds’ behaviour and population dynamics. In that context, experimental fishing exclusion zones were established around some African Penguin colonies in 2008 to assess the benefits of Marine Protected Area for seabirds. Working within a team of fishery scientists, fishery representatives, NGOs, governmental institutions and biologists, we demonstrated that fishing exclusions can benefit a top predator relying on mobile prey but the coordination of wider management strategies is necessary for the conservation of the species. I also developed novel techniques to assess prey distribution and relative abundance from government- and fishery-independent surveys. Such small-scale surveys, used in conjunction with an array of underwater recorders, allow a profound understanding of seabirds’ behaviour in their environment, a necessary step if we wish to predict the consequences of future climate changes.
Pichegru L, Nyengera R, McInnes AM, Pistorius PA (2017). Avoidance of seismic surveys by penguins. Scientific Reports 7, 16305, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-16569
Sherley RB, Barham BJ, Barham PJ, Campbell KC, Grigg J, Horswill C, McInnes AM, Morris T, Pichegru L, Steinfurth A, Weller F, Winker H, Votier SC (2018). Bayesian inference reveals positive but subtle effects of experimental fishery closures on marine predator demographics. Proc. R Soc. London B, 285: 20172443
Pichegru L, Edwards T, Dilley B, Flower TJ, Ryan PG (2016) African penguin tolerance to humans depends on historical exposure at colony level. Bird Conserv. Inter. 26: 307-322
McInnes AM, Khoosal A, Murrell B, Merkle D, Lacerda M, Nyengera R, Coetzee JC, Edwards LC, Ryan PG, Rademan J, van der Westhuizen JJ, Pichegru L (2015) Recreational fish-finders - an inexpensive alternative to scientific echo-sounders for unravelling the links between marine top predators and their prey. PLoS ONE 10: e0140936