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Seabird groups flock together

An ICES working group specializing in the ecology of seabirds is set to team up with a group of marine bird experts from OSPAR contracting parties.
Published: 5 November 2013

​​Adjusting to a changing climate clearly isn't something confined to life in the oceans. In late October at the ICES Secretariat in Copenhagen, two working groups on seabirds with a shifting membership landscape launched a bid to reorganize as one.

The OSPAR expert group on marine birds and the ICES Working Group on Seabird Ecology (WGSE), chaired by Ian Mitchell (UK) and Richard Veit (US) respectively, aim to pool the expertise of their members in a new, jointly-sponsored ICES/OSPAR group to be named WGBIRD.

The joint working group will address two kinds of issues: both the more applied science in the form of responding to advice requests from OSPAR and also the 'pure' science side of things such as seabird population trends and life-history traits. Recently, the applied work has featured the development of Ecology Quality Objectives (EcoQOs)​ and common bird indicators relevant for the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

"We've heard from our members that some are keen to concentrate on pure scientific problems, while some prefer to work on applied issues, and others are happy to work on both," explained Mitchell. "By combining the groups we aim to make the most of the expertise that it is out there, without putting undue demands on the limited time and budget resources that most scientists have to work with in the current financial climate."

Convening annually, WGBIRD will strive to meet the needs of OSPAR and ICES as well as those of the diverse range of constituent seabird biologists. Ensuring the presence of these marine science experts at future meetings is also important, and the group will thus explore options for funding to cover travel expenses.

On top of evaluating modelled maps of important seabird areas across various OSPAR regions of the North East Atlantic and North and Celtic seas – and working towards Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – other current prominent areas of seabird science that the new group will look at include that of 'local enhancement' –when seabirds indirectly detect their fish on which to prey courtesy of other marine predators already hunting and feeding in an area; for example when a pod of dolphins drives a shoal of fish to the water's surface.

Provided that the group is approved, WGBIRD anticipates its inaugural meeting to take place in November 2014.

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Seabird groups flock together

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