Satellite Tracking Leads to Compilation of Important Conservation Data

Researcher:

Josh Adams
U.S Geological Survey
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
E.: josh_adams@usgs.gov

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Revised:

October 28, 2011

Sooty shearwaters live in a sort of endless summer, crossing hemispheres to avoid winter and feed on high-calorie forage fishes in highly productive waters such as the California Current.

Sooty shearwaters live in a sort of endless summer, crossing hemispheres to avoid winter and feed on high-c alorie forage fishes in highly productive waters such as the California Current. Photo: G. Tepke/Website: www.pbase.com/gtepke

November 22, 2010

by Rebecca Buddingh, California Sea Grant Intern

Satellite technologies, similar to those used by cell phone companies, are enabling scientists to track the sooty shearwater seabird species. The data helps to identify critical at-sea habitats for marine life and can further ecosystem-based management of the forage species on which seabirds and other marine predators rely.

Scientists James Harvey and Josh Adams of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories are using the tracking data to test their hypothesis that the seabirds move based on feeding opportunities within the California Current system.

Red areas show foraging hotspots in 2009

Red areas show foraging hotspots in 2009. (Click to expand). Credit: J. Adams/USGS

With their tracking data, the scientists determined common feeding “hotspots,” discovered when the birds visited particular locations and how often, and characterized movement patterns.

They found that these “hotspots” do exist but tend to vary from year to year. In addition, the birds (when within 200 nautical miles of the coast) spent only about a quarter of their time in NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries.

Having developed an algorithm for filtering and analyzing the raw position data, the scientists will now be able to broaden their research to include other species of seabirds and evaluate the overall effects that certain types of fishing have on these birds as a whole.

For many years, environmental researchers have worried that intense harvesting of forage species might reduce food resources for marine predators. With these findings, management systems can be enhanced to ensure that enough forage species are left for the seabirds and other marine predators.

To learn more about this project, read our onepage Project Profile summary at http://csgc.ucsd.edu/BOOKSTORE/Resources/R-ENV-204-Harvey-Adams.pdf.