Kure Atoll seabird monitoring program started in 2000. One of the primary focuses for state management aims to understand what influences nesting success and survival rates through monitoring increased nesting and chick survival.
Seabirds are a large indicator species
because they have a deep reliance
on healthy oceans coupled with native-dominant
nesting habitats for successful, mostly-synchronous nesting seasons.
This can make monitoring Hawaiʻi seabirds akin
to having your finger on
the pulse of the Pacific.
Seabirds monitored for management
From a polluted and overfished marine home to vastly depleting nesting habitats, environmental and human impacts plague every portion of a seabird’s life. With the monitoring program in place, the State is able to assess the different survival factors that play into seabird nesting success.
Some ground-nesting birds need open areas to run and take-off. Historically, the central plains were once dense with head-high invasive plant Verbesina. This caused narrow pathways and locked in heat resulting in the low nesting count and chick survival.
It wasnʻt until rats were eradicated in the 90s was there a substantial recovery to seabird nesting on Kure, some seabirds taking a lot longer to recover than others. Today, seabirds continue to expend more energy towards navigating the dense, aggressive nature of invasive plants than necessary.
The entirety of NWHI is being inundated with a changing landscape due to rising seas and climate change. On Kure, the Dune Stabilization and Restoration project under the Habitat Restoration program values the important protection and stability given by dunes on a low-lying atoll.
Every seabird eats plastic and brings it back to their nest and feeds it to their chick. In the end, if the parents do not have enough to eat, they do not have enough to share, and therefore, chicks do not have enough fat reserves to fledge successfully.
Long-line fleets' industrial-level over-harvesting fishing practices continue to negatively impact multiple marine species through by-catch alone. Kure field camps conduct regular monitoring of the rapid accumulation of marine pollution that washes ashore to remove entanglement hazards.
BIRD BANDING PROGRAM
Bird banding that is conducted helps with both the decision-making process for the state as well as other agencies or researchers monitoring seabirds and their livelihood.
Individual identification provides basic data for studies such as dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success, and population growth.
Albatross Nest/Chick Counts
With a high fidelity on returning to natal sites, monitoring seabirds can be an ideal species to compile observation data from. As albatross are ground-nesting birds, they are also one of the first species to experience immediate effects on a changing landscape. This count happens twice a year usually studied in conjunction with the vegetation monitoring plots.
Christmas Shearwater, Brown Booby, & Masked Booby Fledgling Success
Cooperative Studies on Ocean Distribution Monitoring of Albatross
In spring 2013, the State of Hawaii in partnership with Oikonos, Hawaii Pacific University, and NOAA conducted a third-year study tracking adult black-footed albatross to document foraging hot spots and migration patterns. The information from this study was critical for understanding the at-sea distribution overlayed with fishing.
The goal of this project was to enhance Black-Foot Albatross conservation by investing in the at-sea distribution of birds from Kure Atoll. Kure was an ideal setting for this research because these birds are expected to forage in the Western North Pacific. This migration differs from albatross breeding on Tern Island. It is an area known to have a high volume of longlining and illegal driftnet fishing activity and can have important implications for effective international management of the species.
Examine the Oceanic Distribution and Population Dynamics of the Laysan Albatross Using Geolocation Telemetry and Microsatellite Genetics.
This was a 2005 study conducted in collaboration between DOFAW and Lindsay Young (grad student, UH-Manoa). The research consisted of deploying 57 trackers on individual Laysan Albatross and were retrieved one year later in 2006. This was a unique revelation as other research locations–Tern Island and Oahu—displayed a distribution closer to the Aleutian Island, an area North to Northeast of Kure.
The data recovered showed a genetically distinct population on Kure in comparison to the other Northwestern Hawaiian Island colonies. It revealed the Kure colonies to be foraging across western Pacific areas—primarily off of the Kuroshio extension by Japan.