Description

Leach’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa is an abundant pelagic seabird that nests in large colonies on islands in the northern hemisphere. Due to the species’ habit of nesting in extensive burrow cavities and of only returning to breeding colonies after dark, precise estimates of population sizes or trends are virtually impossible. Increased development pressure on islands at mid-latitudes raises questions about habitat loss and conservation. Rapid assessment of possible breeding islands and/or key habitats within islands will enhance conservation acquisition strategies. Detailed information on environmental conditions within breeding habitat is of particular value if it can be related to broader and more easily assessed indicators of macro-habitat quality. During the summers of 2003-2006 environmental variables including temperature and humidity within and immediately adjacent to petrel burrows were recorded at 15-30 minute intervals over the course of the breeding season, using a variety of electronic tools including wireless sensor motes and commercially available ‘i-buttons”. These data were transferred to a GIS that allowed us to construct detailed thermal topographies of nesting areas that could in turn be overlaid with vegetation map layers. The use of wireless technology and stand-alone recording sensors allowed us to collect a large (over 500,000 readings from 164 sensors in 2003, over 240,000 readings from 104 i-buttons so far in 2006) sample of environmental data with limited human disturbance to nesting birds. Results show both a higher degree of micro-environmental variability with macro-habitat classifications than expected and a remarkably stable environment within actual nesting cavities regardless of macro-habitat classification. This latter result is particularly significant given the long period of chick development in the burrow system exhibited by this species.

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Type of Work:

Poster