This study developed a Disturbance Vulnerability Index (DVI) for 26 seabird species for disturbance from ship traffic in the German Baltic and North Seas. The index combined indicators for species’ shyness, escape costs, and compensatory potential, and analyzed the relationships among shyness, escape costs, and vulnerability. The results suggest that there is a need for areas with little or no disturbance in some marine protected areas, to act as a refuge for vulnerable species.
Questions this practice may help answer:
- How can seabird species vulnerability to shipping traffic be assessed?
The index was developed as a management tool to assess different vulnerabilities of a given sea area with respect to disturbance by ships. It was tested using data from the German Baltic and North Seas. This tool can be used during a maritime spatial planning process to regulate ship traffic in order to protect seabirds.
Aspects / Objectives:
This study aimed to further knowledge of species-specific behavioral disturbance responses at sea for all common and characteristic seabirds in German waters using experimental disturbance. In order to do so, the authors:
- Developed a Disturbance Vulnerability Index (DVI) for ship traffic, combining indicators for species’ shyness, escape costs, and compensatory potential, which can be used as a management tool to assess different vulnerabilities of a given sea area with respect to disturbance by ships.
- Investigated the general relationships among shyness, escape costs, and vulnerability in seabirds by cross-species comparisons of disturbance-related factors.
The DVI was developed taking the factors and scoring seen in table 1 below. The relationships among the three components of the DVI were investigated through statistical analysis (e.g. Spearman’s rank-order correlations in R).
Main Outputs / Results:
The results were divided into behavioural observations and DVI values.
1) Behavioural observations:
- The proportion of time the birds spent swimming
Proportion of escaping birds showing disturbance responses such as flushing or escape diving
- Escape distance
DVI values for each species
This tool can be used for the development of management actions for the protection of seabirds in the North and Baltic Seas in ship traffic areas.
Research and Technology Centre, University of Kiel, Büsum, Germany
Costs / Funding Source:
Data collection and parts of the manuscript preparation were carried out within the German Marine Biodiversity Monitoring and the Project “Fachbeitrag Naturschutz zur maritimen Raumordnung” (FABENA; FKZ 3515 82 0600), both funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).
Katharina Leonia Fliessbach
University of Kiel