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Shy albatross Thalassarche cauta conservation under climate change

thesis
posted on 2024-03-01, 01:27 authored by Claire Mason

Human-induced climate change has caused adverse and irreversible impacts to nature and people globally. Alongside mitigation to limit warming, adaptation efforts are required to offset unavoidable negative impacts, reduce the hazards of extreme events, generate potential benefits, and maintain resilient and functioning ecosystems. One sector where adaptation progress is lagging is in wildlife conservation, with strong evidence that some species and populations will not be able to adapt to keep pace with the rapid changes occurring in their environments. Adaptation implementation depends on the capacity and effectiveness of governance and decision-making processes. For decision-makers, being equipped with compelling evidence of what is required, why it is required, and the feasibility of it being achieved is necessary to gain traction, support from leaders, and funding. Wildlife managers require an understanding of the climate-biology relationship to identify vulnerabilities and intervention opportunities that could meaningfully benefit populations. In this thesis, I contribute evidence required by managers to act to conserve a threatened species. The primary aim of this thesis is to advance understanding of the biological and ecological relationship between shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) and climate variability and change, a major knowledge gap and likely the most threatening future process for the species. More broadly, this thesis aims to demonstrate the needs of wildlife conservation under climate change and exemplify an approach that can be used in other systems.
In chapter 1, I provide an overview of climate adaptation as an emerging field of practice in wildlife conservation and discuss the current challenges and shortcomings to effective action and how this thesis contributes. In chapter 2, I produce the first global synthesis of climate adaptation interventions for iconic fauna – an emerging practice in conservation in response to the current and future threat posed by climate change. I found very few actions had been robustly evaluated and reported in the scientific literature and so I used a variety of informal sources to capture the richness of practical interventions that have occurred. I offer valuable insights and recommendations to improve this field moving forward which include: the sharing and publishing of climate-related conservation interventions, the use of standardised metrics for reporting outcomes, the implementation of experimental controls for any actions undertaken, and reporting and evaluation of both failures and successes. In chapter 3, I use seven consecutive years of GPS telemetry data to characterise the variation in foraging behaviour between and within shy albatross individuals to assess their capacity to respond to changes in their marine environment. At a population-level shy albatross displayed a highly localised foraging distribution. I found variable space use between individuals, but consistency of space use within individuals. As a high-trophic species in a climate change hotspot, a comprehensive description of behavioural tendencies adds to a growing understanding of shy albatross ecology and provides insights into the current and future impacts of climate change. In chapters 4 and 5, I investigate drivers of breeding success at the colony. In chapter 4, I explore local weather drivers of temporal trends in shy albatross chick mortality. I explored daily chick mortality alongside meteorological covariates using survival analysis to identify local weather conditions associated with chick mortality. As well as documenting a statistically significant relationship between the instantaneous risk of death and the heat stress in preceding four days, I observed a mortality event that corresponded with anomalously high and prolonged heat stress. I show that shy albatross breeding attempts are vulnerable to hot weather conditions and define extreme heat stress conditions for this species as above 22° wet bulb globe temperature. In chapter 5, I test a suite of tools and methods that can be used by researchers and conservation practitioners for detecting key ecological relationships for colonial seabird populations in the face of climate change. I discuss the preliminary research findings for shy albatross and discuss the technical lessons learned from these approaches. In the final and sixth chapter, I first summarise the key findings of each research chapter, their contributions to the field of climate adaptation practice for wildlife conservation, and conclude with limitations, reflections, and future directions.

History

Sub-type

  • PhD Thesis

Pagination

xi, vi, 135 pages

Department/School

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies

Publisher

University of Tasmania

Event title

Graduation

Date of Event (Start Date)

2023-04-28

Rights statement

Copyright 2023 the author.

Notes

Chapter 2 appears to be the equivalent of a post-print version of an article published as: Mason, C., Hobday, A. J., Alderman, R., Lea M.-A., 2021. Climate adaptation interventions for iconic fauna, Conservation science and practice, 3(7), e434. © 2021 the authors. Conservation science and practice published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology. The article is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Chapter 3 appears to be the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Mason, C., Hobday, A. J., Lea M.-A., Alderman, R., 2023. Individual consistency in the localised foraging behaviour of shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta), Ecology and evolution, 13(10), e10644. © 2023 the authors. Ecology and evolution published by Wiley. The article is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Chapter 4 appears to be the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Mason, C., Hobday, A. J., Alderman, R., Lea M.-A., 2024. Shy albatross Thalassarche cauta chick mortality and heat stress in a temperate climate, Marine ecology progress series, HEATav12 (advance publication). Copyright © 2024 Inter-Research. © M.-A. Lee and The Commonwealth of Australia 2024. The article is open access under Creative Commons by Attribution Licence. Use, distribution and reproduction are unrestricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.

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