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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Abbott's Booby (Papasula abbotti) Recovery Plan

A Dunn and FAR Hill
Environment Australia, September 1997

Note:This publication has been superseded by the National Recovery Plan for the Abbott's Booby Papasula abbotti

Recovery Actions

Action 1: Manage the Recovery Process through a Recovery Team

Aims

To ensure progress in the Recovery Plan is reviewed regularly by a team with appropriate expertise, community standing, and concern for the conservation of the taxon.

Justification

The appropriate body to undertake reviews of the Recovery Plan is a Recovery Team drawn from representatives of funding bodies, land management agencies, the community and other people with appropriate expertise.

Methods

The Recovery Team will review the implementation of the Recovery Plan twice-yearly. Due to the expense of bringing Recovery Team members together the Recovery Team will usually communicate by telephone and email. The Recovery Team will consist of the following:

Responsibility

Team administration by PAN Christmas Island staff.

Costs ($'000: 1997)

PAN     TSCS     TOTAL    
Staff     4.0     4.0    
Airfares and accommodation     10.0     10.0    
TOTAL     4.0     10.0     14.0

Summary of Annual Costs

1998 1999 2000 2001 2001 TOTAL  
TSCS 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 10.0
PAN 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 4.0

Action 2: Develop monitoring techniques to estimate of the total population size and to compare breeding success downwind, upwind, and beyond rehabilitating minefields

Aims

To develop a more cost-effective method of monitoring Abbott's Booby total population size, and methodology for comparing breeding success and proximity to forest clearings.

Justification

The current methodology to estimate total population size and breeding distribution is expensive and labour-intensive and it should be possible to reduce the survey effort required to produce acceptable estimates of total population size.

It is essential to monitor the effect of rehabilitation plantings on the breeding success of Abbott's Booby because the conservation of this species is a major justification for rehabilitation of minefields. The methodology to do this needs to be reexamined to ensure that sufficient data is collected to reveal possibly small but significant differences in breeding success and to decide, for example, whether this monitoring needs to be ongoing or repeated at intervals of a number of years.

Methods

Information on nesting distribution from previous surveys is available on Christmas Island although not all of this data may have been analysed. For example, there may be some nesting data for the northern terraces which has not been analysed (H. Yorkston personal communication). Previous workers are confident that no significant nesting areas remain undiscovered (Yorkston, H., GBRMPA, personal communication). The existing data on nest locations will be useful in designing the methodology. Estimating total population size which might involve a stratified transect design and the design for monitoring of breeding success would be nested within the overall population survey design.

A population survey probably needs to be carried out between May and November when attendance of parents at the nests is reasonably high. A survey of total population size every five years was suggested by Yorkston (1992). Methodology, plus hypothetical rates of increase of the population and the error associated with estimates of total population size are considerations in deciding the frequency of surveys. Yorkston (1992) recommended a survey interval of 5 years. The last survey was in 1991.

Re-evaluation of the survey methodology requires the expertise of population biologists as well as field biologist familiar with Abbott's Booby. PAN Christmas Island staff will compile all existing data relevant to this action and will have the lead role in this action. The budget allows for provision of expert advice to the PAN Christmas Island staff, as recommended by the participants in the forum on Abbott's Booby held in Canberra in August 1997.

Costs ($'000: 1997)

PAN TSCS TOTAL
Staff 10 10 20.0
TOTAL 10.0 10.0 20.0

Summary of Annual Costs

1998 1999 2000 2001 2001 TOTAL
TSCS 10.0 10.0
PAN 10.0 10.0

Action 3: Monitor overall breeding population size and distribution, and the impact of rehabilitation efforts, on breeding success in areas affected by wind turbulence

Aims

To estimate the size of the breeding population, describe nesting distribution in relation to clearings, and to compare breeding success between nesting areas affected by mine clearings and other nesting areas. Some of the information gaps identified by Meek (in prep.) might be addressed in this action.

Justification

Mine clearings affect localised breeding success and result in changes in nesting distribution. Rehabilitation of mined areas has been implemented to combat these effects. The information gathered from population surveys will be used to detect changes in overall population size, distribution, and breeding success, which will aid in determining the effectiveness of the rehabilitation and may identify new priority areas for rehabilitation.

Methods

The methodology will be developed in Action 3. The costing below provides for employing a biologist for 10 months and an assistant for 7 months and is based on the methodology used by Yorkston & Green (1991). The new methodology is likely to be cheaper than this.

Costs ($'000: 1997)

PAN

Salaries

TSCS TOTAL
Researcher 35.0 35.0
Assistant 20.0 20.0
Field equipment 5.0 5.0
Office costs 4.0 4.0
Airfare 2.0 2.0
Accommodation 6.5 6.5
Vehicle 9.2 9.2
Project Supervision 4.0 4.0
Administration costs (15%) 11.5 11.5
TOTAL 9.0 88.2 97.2

Summary of Annual Costs

1998 1999 2000 2001 2001 TOTAL
TSCS 88.2 88.2
PAN 9.0 9.0

* based on methodology used by Yorkston & Green (1992) and is a guide only.

Action 4: Ongoing negotiation with all landowners to ensure protection of all known and new nesting habitat and of appropriate buffers around nesting habitat

Aim

To prevent any further clearance or degradation of Abbott's Booby nesting habitat through negotiation with other landholders.

Justification

Extensive areas of nesting habitat of Abbott's Booby have been lost since settlement and the total breeding population size is now very small. This action aims to ensure continued protection of all known and any new nesting habitat. Some of the nesting habitat is close to areas of human use such as mining leases. It is essential that areas adjacent to nesting habitat are managed so that the breeding success of Abbott's Booby is not reduced. Clearance of forest adjoining nesting areas of Abbott's Booby have been shown to significantly reduce the breeding success of birds nesting within 300 m on the north-west side of the clearing because of increased wind turbulence. Thus clearance of vegetation within 300 m of nesting colonies, particularly on the south-east side, is highly undesirable.

Methods

Buffer areas of 300 m should be established around nesting colonies, within which any planned changes to land-use should require examination by PAN staff for impacts on Abbott's Booby. These should be mapped and made available to other agencies whose activities may impact on areas adjacent to nesting areas. PAN staff on Christmas Island (and Darwin) are routinely involved with the other stakeholders in negotiations over their activities within and adjacent to the National Park. This is ongoing.

Costs: ($'000: 1997)

PAN TSCS TOTAL  
Salaries 15 0 15
TOTAL 15 0 15

Summary of Annual Costs:

Year 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 TOTAL  
PAN 5.0 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 15.0  

Action 5: Ameliorate wind turbulence in all priority minefields

Aims

To rehabilitate mined areas adjacent to Abbott's Booby habitat to reduce wind turbulence in the canopy downwind of these clearings. This action also includes monitoring of the impact of rehabilitation on wind turbulence within forest downwind.

Justification

Many Abbott's Booby nest sites were located in areas containing high grade phosphate which were subsequently mined. Abbott's Boobies, thus displaced, tended to move only a short distance from their last nest site. This means that a large number of nest sites are now close to the edge of clearings. Nests that are within 300m downwind of clearings have a significantly lower breeding success than nests that are upwind from clearings. One of the major reasons for this reduced breeding success appears to be wind turbulence in the canopy caused by the nearby clearing. Wind-tunnel modelling indicates that this turbulence can be ameliorated by plantings in the upwind minefields. Ultimately, the regrowth forest may provide more nesting habitat in the distant future. The effectiveness of rehabilitation plantings needs to be measured (CSIRO 1996).

Methods

The review of the CIRRP (CSIRO 1996) is likely to provide a new methodology for rehabilitating minefields. Minefields which are of a high priority for rehabilitation because of their proximity to Abbott's Booby nesting areas were provided by Carew-Reid (1987), however, the rehabilitation of these minefields is well behind schedule (Table 1; H. Yorkston personal communication, P. Meek, personal communication). In consultation with the mine an agreed and binding timetable for the rehabilitation of all priority minefields must be reached and implemented. Commencement of rehabilitation works in Field 20 is the highest priority.

The effect of rehabilitation plantings on wind turbulence must be monitored to ensure that the planting methods used do have a measurable effect. PAN Christmas Island staff are currently negotiating with a Western Australian university to carry this out. It is intended that information arising from this work could then be used in more refined wind-modelling experiments using the digital elevation model developed by the Bureau of Resource Sciences (K. Porritt, BRS, personal communication).

It is anticipated that a post-graduate student would initially undertake some modelling work to plan the experimental programme. The modelling work would attempt to model the wind flow over the island and account for the different surface roughnesses that are present. The modelling work would be used to plan an experimental programme that can validate the model. In this it would be necessary to take field measurements over different changes in surface effects. A numerical study once validated could provide a clear management tool for ascertaining what if strategies (T. Lyons, Murdoch University, personal communication).

Costs

The new mine lease provides for continued payment of the rehabilitation levy. The size of this 'Rehabilitation Levy' is not known until just prior to the commencement of that years rehabilitation work. The levy for the 1996/97 season was $756,652.

Below is a costing for monitoring the effects of rehabilitation planting on wind and on further modelling of wind effects (Murdoch University, BRS). This would involve a post-graduate student for three years. It is anticipated that this study would be partly funded by the rehabilitation levy.

Costs ($'000: 1997)

PAN TSCS TOTAL  
Staff 5.0 54.0 59.0
Airfares 3.6 3.6  
Accommodation 3.0 3.0  
Incidental 6.0 6.0  
Meteorological equipment 50.0 50.0  
Towers 6.0 6.0  
TOTAL 8.0 119.6 127.6

Summary of Annual Costs

1998 1999 2000 2001 2001 TOTAL
TSCS 77.2 21.2 21.2 119.6  
PAN 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 8.0

Action 6: Identify feeding habitat of breeding adults and any threatening or potentially threatening processes

Aims

To locate areas that Abbott's Booby use for feeding during the breeding season.

Justification

It is not known where Abbott's Boobies feed, however, most of their foraging appears to take place at a substantial distance from Christmas Island. Fishing pressure and other types of resource utilization of the north-west Indian ocean where the birds are likely to be feeding will inevitably increase. It is essential to know where key feeding areas are so that arguments can be made for management of them that is sympathetic with the conservation of Abbott's Booby.

Methods

Abbott's Booby are thought to forage several hundred kilometres from Christmas Island and so satellite telemetry is the only practical method of locating the birds at sea. Abbott's Boobies average about 1.4 kg in weight (Marchant & Higgins 1990) and satellite transmitters small enough for use on these birds are available

Five breeding adults, probably of the same sex, should be tracked to minimise the effects of variables such as age and time of year on results. Capturing adults is problematic and may require employment of an expert tree climbing biologist such as John Young. A tree-climber from Indonesia may be a cheaper alternative. The budget provides for this possibility.

The results of this action should be used to reexamine the findings of Reville et al. (1990a) who suggested a causal relationship between sea surface temperatures in upwellings north of Christmas Island and Abbott's Booby breeding success.

The budget provides for the analysis and write-up to be done principally by PAN Christmas Island staff (estimated 6 mos). PAN staff will probably have to come to the mainland for training on use of the transmitters.

Costs ($'000: 1997)

PAN

Salaries

TSCS TOTAL
Researcher 30.0 30.0
Transmitters 20.0 20.0
Satellite 10.0 10.0
Office costs 4.0 4.0
Airfare 2.0 2.0
TOTAL 36.0 30.0 66.0

Summary of Annual Costs

1998 1999 2000 2001 2001 TOTAL
TSCS 30.0 30.0
PAN 36.0 36.0