Threats to seabirds

There are a range of identified anthropogenic threats to the long term population viability of seabirds of the GBR. By far the biggest contemporary threat is climate change and its associated impacts on food supply, breeding habitat, and so on. Seabirds' total dependence on marine resources makes them key upper trophic level predators in marine systems. This means that seabird demographics and reproductive parameters are strongly impacted by, and closely reflect, changing food availability and oceanographic conditions. For this reason they are widely considered important indicator species in marine ecosystems. Therefore, understanding how seabird population dynamics and reproductive ecology are impacted by changing oceanography leads directly to important insights into the potential future impacts of climate change; not only on seabirds, but also on other functionally important components of reef ecosystems in general (see Box 31.2).

Other important identified threats to seabirds include, but are not limited to; commercial fishing, direct disturbance by visitors to islands, breeding habitat destruction, the introduction of exotic plants and animals, as well as pollution and water quality degradation along with their associated trophic disturbance.

Figure 31.3 A, wedge-tailed shearwater; B, PTT-satellite transmitter; C, PTT foraging track for a single wedge-tailed shearwater adult during February-March 2006; D, wedge-tailed shearwater foraging positions (•) along the edge of an oceano-graphic frontal system of the northern NSW coast. (Photos: B. Congdon, S. Weeks.)

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