Cécile Trocado - France
Identification of candidate pelagic Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) off west Africa: evaluating their effectiveness in protecting marine predators and risk of fishery bycatch.
Marine Protected Areas are being implemented to shield ecosystems against anthropogenic threats. To do that, the use of seabirds is very interesting because they are umbrella species, so their conservation can impact the conservation of other species. In Cape Verde, there is a combination of important bird areas, intense fisheries and only a small MPA network. This study will provide new data on important areas for marine predators to allow the implementation of more MPAs.
We will use tracking data collected from 2013 to 2021 of two seabird species from Cape Verde, the Cape Verde shearwater and the Bulwer’s petrel, to assess their foraging distribution and then create a map of Key Biodiversity Areas using a R package, track2KBA. To understand the interannual use of these KBAs by both species, we will use the SEAPODYM remote-sensing project which provides simulations of the biomass and production of multiple parameters. Then, to estimate the threat of fisheries on marine predators, these sites will be compared to the fishery activities around Cape Verde, using the Global Fishing Watch data, and particularly industrial longliners because the seabirds get caught by the hook whilst trying to grab the bait. Finally, we will use data of the distribution of other taxa from previous studies to evaluate their potential protection given by the estimated Key Biodiversity Areas.
Linda Kochniss - Germany
Seasonal camouflage mismatch in colour moulting species, mountain hare (Lepus timidus) and rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta)
In the Northern hemisphere, several species adapted to the pronounced seasonality by moulting from white fur or feathers in winter to brown or greyish coats during the summer. This improves their camouflage against their immediate environment and lets them blend in with snow and vegetation alike. However, due to climate change, the extent and duration of snow cover continues to decrease. Several regional scale studies have confirmed that this leads to a camouflage mismatch in those species, as the moult is initiated by day-length rather than temperature or snow cover. This leaves prey species more vulnerable to predation and can ultimately endanger them.
My project focused on mountain hares and rock ptarmigan, two prey species that both occur in Scotland. The initial project plan was to gather my own data in the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands and complement the data set with citizen science data. However, due to heavy storms and fog, I had to shift to solely using citizen science data. The platform iNaturalist provided images of hares and ptarmigans from all over the Northern hemisphere, some of them dating back to the 1970s. This wide scale data set allows for more general assession of trends and impacts on the seasonal moult. The photos were used to compare the colour of the animal against the snow coverage in the immediate environment and determine the level of camouflage mismatch.
The models showed that populations at the Northern extend of the range experience higher levels of camouflage mismatch, with the highest levels of mismatch during the beginning of the moulting season. In addition, isolation seems to be another risk factor for populations. However, only a rough proxy was used to determine isolation of populations, and this result needs further validation. Overall, the results of this project are in line with regional scale studies that describe the camouflage mismatch experienced by mountain hares and rock ptarmigans and adds to them by identifying vulnerable populations and time periods, which is essential in guiding conservation efforts.