South African seabirds and climate change


This 2011 video says about itself:

You’ve never seen so many seabirds in one place! A tiny island off the South African coast is the location of one of the biggest gannet colonies on earth.

From Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution:

A changing distribution of seabirds in South Africa—the possible impact of climate and its consequences

In the southern Benguela ecosystem off South Africa, there were recent shifts to the south and east in the distributions of three forage resources (anchovy, sardine, rock lobster), which probably were influenced by environmental change although fishing too may have played a part.

In this study, we review information on trends in distributions and numbers of eight seabirds breeding in South Africa. For five species that feed predominantly on anchovy, sardine or rock lobster, their populations off northwest South Africa decreased markedly. For three of these species, which exhibit behavioral inertia and have restricted foraging ranges when breeding (African penguin, Cape cormorant, bank cormorant), there were large decreases in their overall populations in South Africa.

Conversely, for two showing more plasticity and able to range over wide areas or move between breeding localities (Cape gannet, swift tern) there were increases. It is thought that movement of forage resources away from the northern islands led to a mismatch in the distributions of breeding localities and prey of dependent seabirds off western South Africa and to attempts by several species to establish colonies on the southern mainland closer to food resources.

There also were shifts to the south and east in the distributions of three seabirds that do not compete with fisheries for prey (crowned cormorant, white-breasted cormorant, kelp gull), suggesting some environmental forcing, but decreases of these species off northwest South Africa were less severe and populations in South Africa remained stable or increased in the long term.

It is likely, because many fishing plants are located in the northwest, that there was increased competition between seabirds and fisheries for prey as forage resources moved south and east. Potential interventions to mitigate the adverse impacts of distributional changes for seabirds include allocations of allowable catches of shared forage resources at regional levels, closures to fishing around impacted seabird colonies and establishment of new colonies nearer to the present location of food.

South Africa plays host to an incredible array of bird species and spectacular landscapes, many of which are under threat. Candice Stevens, BirdLife South Africa’s Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project Manager, believes that we need to use every means at our disposal to secure the future of our natural wealth. Candice is a tax specialist testing how accessing environmental tax incentives on behalf of private landowners will increase the amount of land under formal conservation protection: here.

Disentangling the cause of seabird deaths in South Africa. Net entanglements have become a major problem for seabirds in South African side trawl vessels: here.

BirdLife South Africa’s Fiscal Benefits project has successfully included the very first biodiversity tax incentive for protected areas in an annual tax return. This was achieved for the first time in South Africa at the end of 2016, on behalf of a landowner in an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA): here.

6 thoughts on “South African seabirds and climate change

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