Seabird Abstracts

Development of MSFD Indicators, Baselines and Target for

Seabird Breeding Failure Occurrence in the UK (2012)

Cook ASCP, Robinson RA & Ross-Smith VH (2014) JNCC Report 539, ISSN 0963 8901

  1. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MFSD) has been developed with the aim of achieving Good Environmental Status (GES) in Europe's seas by 2020. To do this, all EU states must submit a list of environmental targets to the European Commission and put in place a supporting monitoring programme that will assess progress towards achieving these targets.
  2. Seabirds have long been proposed as valuable indicators of the health of the marine environment. Seabird breeding success has been shown to be closely linked to food quality and availability. Consequently, tracking breeding failure rates for a variety of species over a broad spatial scale would provide a valuable tool with which to monitor the effect of anthropogenic activities on the wider marine environment.
  3. Breeding success data were obtained from the Seabird Monitoring Programme for 17 seabird species, which were then ranked according to their sensitivity to changes in food supply.
  4. Breeding failure rates for each of these species were then modelled over the period 1986-2010 to account for annual variability in sampling regime.
  5. Modelled failure rates were then assessed against a target of the proportion of colonies failing not exceeding a maximum threshold in more than three out of the preceding six years.
  6. Five different maximum thresholds were considered - 5% of colonies, 15% of colonies, the mean failure rate of the preceding 10 years, the mean failure rate of the preceding 15 years and the mean failure rate of the preceding 20 years.
  7. The most realistic maximum threshold was felt to be the mean failure rate of the preceding 15 years, or 5% of colonies, whichever value was higher. By setting this threshold it was possible to account for long-term environmental changes which may affect breeding success, whilst also ensuring that failure to meet targets would not be driven by breeding failure at a single colony in a species with relatively few colonies.
  8. Based on an initial indicator assessment and consideration of species sensitivities to changes in food supply, Arctic tern, common tern, sandwich tern, little tern and kittiwake were selected as indicators for the Greater North Sea sub-region and common tern, Arctic tern, kittiwake, lesser black-backed gull and herring gull were selected as indicators for the Celtic Seas sub-region.
  9. At present in the Greater North Sea sub-region, common tern, Arctic tern, Sandwich tern and little tern are assessed as failing to meet the above target, while kittiwake meets the target. In the Celtic Seas sub-region, lesser black-backed gull and herring gull are assessed as failing to meet the above target; both tern species and kittiwake met the target.



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