SPEAKERS/THOMAS BOUYARD
Thomas Bouyard

Thomas Bouyard

IRD, Entropie, AMU

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3rd World Seabird Conference

Flight-initiation response as a promising conservation planning tool on remote islets

Abstract:

The remoteness of islands allowed for the evolution and maintenance of rich and endemic biodiversity, isolated from many pressures including anthropogenic ones. The increasing use of, and visitation to, these isolated territories by people (especially tourists) enables the investigation of how biodiversity reacts to novel pressures. Indeed, humans can have an indirect effect associated with their mere presence as wildlife responds to people as if they are predators. Seabirds for example rely on isolated, "low disturbance" areas to reproduce. They are one of the most threatened animal groups at a global scale and their risk of extinction is increasing faster than any other group of birds. We measured flight-initiation distances (FIDs) and monitored the breeding status of six seabird species breeding on tree islets of Coral Sea. We then developped a spatiality explicit sensitivity index considering both classical diversity metrics (species abundance and richness) and this behavioural metric of birds sensivity to human disturbance. Our prospective dataset first shows that seabirds sensivity to human disturbances varies between species and along their reproductive cycle. Shorter FID recorded during the most vulnerable stages of the reproduction, ie egg laying and chicks rearing, support the hypothesis of a 'sit and defend' strategy. Thereby, nest defence would likely be a better predictor of birds behavioural response than predation avoidance during critical reprodutive states. On the other hand, our spatially explicit index provides an innovative and promising sensibity metric by including seabirds behavioural responses to disturbances. In island contexts facing increasing pressures from human visitations and tourism, we believe that this index may address the need for conservation planning tools.

Authors:

Martin THIBAULT¹, Mike Weston², Andreas Ravache¹, Eric Vidal¹, Thomas Bouyard³

¹ENTROPIE (IRD), ²Deakin University, ³IRD

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