Shy albatross and chick on good nest, Bass Strait ©©2017 Matthew Newton

Shy albatross and chick on good nest, Bass Strait © 2017 Matthew Newton

Helping Tasmania's shy albatross combat climate change

30 Jun 2017

Keywords
  • albatross
  • climate change
  • tasmania

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg today announced $110,000 towards ensuring the ongoing survival of the Tasmanian shy albatross in the face of climate change.

 

WWF-Australia, the Tasmanian State Government environment department (DPIPWE) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) are also contributing funding and in kind support to the Shy Albatross project.

 

The groups are banding together to develop practical measures to help the species cope with the rapid changes being experienced on land and at sea because of climate change.


One idea to be trialled this year is to install artificial nests to boost breeding success.

 

With about 5,000 breeding pairs, Albatross Island in Bass Strait is an important nesting site for the giant birds. But climate change is already taking a toll.

 

Increased air temperatures during the chick rearing period are reducing breeding success.

 

Foraging parents are spending longer at sea and it is thought the rapid warming of the ocean may be making it harder for them to find prey.

 

“This population is living in a region that is experiencing rapid ocean warming in the eastern portion of its foraging range, and the 2015 Tasman sea marine heatwave showed that extreme events will also impact the region,” said CSIRO scientist Alistair Hobday.

 

“Developing adaptation options for species living in these regions is important part of our response to climate change,” he said.

 

Tasmanian environment department scientist, Rachael Alderman, who’s been studying the birds since 2003, said helping the birds survive climate change impacts called for new approaches.

 

“Our aim is to develop a series of low-impact, efficient and effective actions that provide the species with greater resilience to climate impacts, and we want to have a tried and tested tool-kit ready to go, before the population reaches critical levels,” she said.

 

This season about 100 high-quality artificial nests will be installed on Albatross Island.

 

Studies have shown that birds with high quality nests have greater chance of hatching an egg and producing a chick than poor quality ones. Not all birds can find and keep sufficient nesting material to make a high-quality nest.

 

“We believe an increasing number of chicks are perishing because of climate change so we’re trying to give the birds a helping hand with ready-to-go high quality nests,” said Darren Grover, WWF-Australia’s Head of Living Ecosystems.

 

“If artificial nests increase the number of surviving chicks we can offset some of the losses associated with climate change,” he said.

 

The project will also satellite track at least 20 juvenile birds to increase understanding of the impact of fisheries and climate change on the Shy Albatross.

 

It’s expected the artificial nests will be in place in time for the next breeding season – from September 2017 through to the end of March 2018.

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Paula Kruger, Senior Manager News and Public Affairs, 0407 067 303

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© Sian Breen / WWF-Aus

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