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Long-term black-browed albatrosses


Albatrosses are amongst the most charismatic and spectacular birds. With a wingspan of more than 2 meters, they travel thousands of kilometers over the oceans, coming to land only during the breeding season. These birds are famous for their amazing flight capabilities, as they glide above the waves, taking advantage of wind currents, almost without flapping their wings. There are 22 species, most of which are currently classified as threatened, placing this family at the top of the rank of bird families facing severe conservation problems.


Among the various causes for population declines, it is believed that the most important factor is a high incidental mortality caused by fishing gear, but changes in marine productivity, introduced species and emerging diseases also play an important role.


The Falkland/Malvinas Islands hold about two thirds of the world population of black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris. In 2003, we started the first detailed demographic study of the species in this archipelago. The annual monitoring of the population breeding on New Island, plus more limited work at other sites (including the largest colonies: Steeple Jason and Beauchene), is allowing us to learn enormously about black-browed albatross demography, ecology and behaviour, particularly of its relations with fisheries.


The long-term study of this top predator also contributes to the assessment of the state of marine environment on the Patagonian shelf and of the potential impacts of climate change. Being relatively easy to study, seabirds are excellent indicators of environmental quality and provide valuable information to decision makers, including in matters such as the management of fisheries, seascape management and the creation of marine protected areas.


The Falklands/Malvinas constitute a truly outstanding wildlife sanctuary and we take advantage of our presence there to, in parallel with albatross research, develop several projects with other birds (prions, shearwaters, skuas, penguins, caracaras), with relevance for conservation and environmental monitoring.

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