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Out of sight but not out of harm's way: Human disturbance reduces reproductive success of a cavity-nesting seabird

Watson, Hannah LU ; Bolton, Mark and Monaghan, Pat (2014) In Biological Conservation 174. p.127-133
Abstract
While negative effects of human disturbance on animals living above the ground have been widely reported, few studies have considered effects on animals occupying cavities or burrows underground. It is generally assumed that, in the absence of direct visual contact, such species are less vulnerable to disturbance. Seabird colonies can support large populations of burrow- and cavity-nesting species and attract increasing numbers of tourists. We investigated the potential effects of recreational disturbance on the reproductive behaviour of the European storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus, a nocturnally-active cavity-nesting seabird. Reproductive phenology and outcome of nests subject to high and low levels of visitor pressure were recorded in... (More)
While negative effects of human disturbance on animals living above the ground have been widely reported, few studies have considered effects on animals occupying cavities or burrows underground. It is generally assumed that, in the absence of direct visual contact, such species are less vulnerable to disturbance. Seabird colonies can support large populations of burrow- and cavity-nesting species and attract increasing numbers of tourists. We investigated the potential effects of recreational disturbance on the reproductive behaviour of the European storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus, a nocturnally-active cavity-nesting seabird. Reproductive phenology and outcome of nests subject to high and low levels of visitor pressure were recorded in two consecutive years. Hatching success did not differ between disturbance levels, but overall nestling mortality was significantly higher in areas exposed to high visitor pressure. Although visitor numbers were consistent throughout the season, the magnitude and rate of a seasonal decline in productivity were significantly greater in nests subject to high disturbance. This study presents good evidence that, even when humans do not pose a direct mortality risk, animals may perceive them as a predation risk. This has implications for the conservation and management of a diverse range of burrow- and cavity-dwelling animals. Despite this reduction in individual fitness, overall colony productivity was reduced by <= 1.6% compared with that expected in the absence of visitors. While the colony-level consequences at the site in question may be considered minor, conservation managers must evaluate the trade-off between potential costs and benefits of public access on a site- and species-specific basis. (C) 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Tourism, Productivity, Reproductive behaviour, Seabird, Storm petrel, Hydrobates pelagicus, Visitor management, Recreational disturbance, Shetland
in
Biological Conservation
volume
174
pages
127 - 133
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • wos:000337650800015
  • scopus:84899530970
ISSN
1873-2917
DOI
10.1016/j.biocon.2014.03.020
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
1c076cf0-b7b3-40ac-a63f-f91e1644ced6 (old id 4609621)
date added to LUP
2014-08-25 11:52:02
date last changed
2017-09-24 03:04:27
@article{1c076cf0-b7b3-40ac-a63f-f91e1644ced6,
  abstract     = {While negative effects of human disturbance on animals living above the ground have been widely reported, few studies have considered effects on animals occupying cavities or burrows underground. It is generally assumed that, in the absence of direct visual contact, such species are less vulnerable to disturbance. Seabird colonies can support large populations of burrow- and cavity-nesting species and attract increasing numbers of tourists. We investigated the potential effects of recreational disturbance on the reproductive behaviour of the European storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus, a nocturnally-active cavity-nesting seabird. Reproductive phenology and outcome of nests subject to high and low levels of visitor pressure were recorded in two consecutive years. Hatching success did not differ between disturbance levels, but overall nestling mortality was significantly higher in areas exposed to high visitor pressure. Although visitor numbers were consistent throughout the season, the magnitude and rate of a seasonal decline in productivity were significantly greater in nests subject to high disturbance. This study presents good evidence that, even when humans do not pose a direct mortality risk, animals may perceive them as a predation risk. This has implications for the conservation and management of a diverse range of burrow- and cavity-dwelling animals. Despite this reduction in individual fitness, overall colony productivity was reduced by &lt;= 1.6% compared with that expected in the absence of visitors. While the colony-level consequences at the site in question may be considered minor, conservation managers must evaluate the trade-off between potential costs and benefits of public access on a site- and species-specific basis. (C) 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.},
  author       = {Watson, Hannah and Bolton, Mark and Monaghan, Pat},
  issn         = {1873-2917},
  keyword      = {Tourism,Productivity,Reproductive behaviour,Seabird,Storm petrel,Hydrobates pelagicus,Visitor management,Recreational disturbance,Shetland},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {127--133},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Biological Conservation},
  title        = {Out of sight but not out of harm's way: Human disturbance reduces reproductive success of a cavity-nesting seabird},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.03.020},
  volume       = {174},
  year         = {2014},
}