The Marine Seabird Guide to the Oceans

Oceans are big, and we mean really big! You might think it is a long way to the corner shop but that is nothing compared to getting around on the sea. Fortunately, the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA), with support from NACC, has a guide that might help. (Apologies to the late Douglas Adams).

There are innumerable vast, variable and vital ocean processes going on all the time, including massive oceanic currents that transport incomprehensible amounts of heat, nutrients and pollutants around the planet.

These currents in turn affect the distribution and abundance of oceanic plants and animals, including important food fish species. This is one of many reasons why it is important to study changes in ocean dynamics, particularly in response to a changing climate.

So with the ocean being so big and all, how do we go about studying it? One method is to concentrate on “indicator” species – those species whose “presence, absence, quantum, condition or behaviour indicates something about the state of the environment” (quote from The Guide).

Seabirds turn out to be excellent indicator species of the ocean environment, and it just so happens that one of the worlds’ premier seabird ecologists – Dr Nic Dunlop, Citizen Science Program Coordinator at CCWA – is based here in Western Australia. Nic has been studying seabird ecology and dynamics in the eastern Indian Ocean for decades.

Not content with his role as coordinatior of NACCs multi-partner seabird tracking project, Dr Dunlop has gone on to produce a brand new resource guide – Sentinel Seabirds: A guide to using marine birds to monitor marine ecosystems in Western Australia. The Guide was formally launched at last week’s NRM Forum on the Houtman Abrolhos Islands in Geraldton. These islands just happen to be one of Nic’s favourite “laboratories”.

Within the pages of this electronic document lies everything anyone might want to know about using marine birds to monitor changes in the marine ecosystems, including those brought on by climate change and the rise of marine contaminants. Seabird monitoring as a tool for fisheries management is also addressed.

Dr Dunlop said the guide was the culmination of 30 years of seabird study, much of it with the assistance of citizen scientists too numerous to mention.

“I hope the guide is used to establish more seabird monitoring programs here and around the world,” he said.

NACC joins a long, long list of collaborators and supporters on this project. Find the new Seabird Sentinel guide here

NACC’s support of this project is made possible through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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