The SEAPOP programme - a milestone for the mapping and monitoring of seabirds in Norway

SEAPOP (SEAbird POPulations) is a new and long-term monitoring and mapping programme for Norwegian seabirds that was established in 2005. The programme represents a new initiative for these activities in Norway, Svalbard and adjacent sea areas, and will provide and maintain base-line knowledge of seabirds for an improved management of this marine environment. The data analyses aim to develop further models of seabird distribution and population dynamics using different environmental parameters, and to explore the degree of covariation across different sites and species. This knowledge is urgently needed to distinguish human influences from those caused by natural variation.

SEAPOP Specialist Group

Tycho Anker-Nilssen1, Rob Barrett2, Jan Ove Bustnes3, Kjell Einar Erikstad3, Per Fauchald3, Svein-Håkon Lorentsen1, Sebastien Descamps4, Hallvard Strøm4, Geir Helge Systad3, Signe Christensen-Dalsgaard1 & Arne Follestad1.
 
1 Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), NO-7485 Trondheim, Norway
2 Tromsø University Museum, NO-9037 Tromsø, Norway
3 Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Polar Environmental Centre, NO-9296 Tromsø, Norway
4 Norwegian Polar Institute, Polar Environmental Centre, NO-9296 Tromsø, Norway
 
The activities in the two initial years were restricted to the Lofoten and Barents Sea area, and in 2007 some baseline projects were also started in the southern part of the Norwegian Sea (see map). The programme will be implemented on the full national scale during 2008. The work is organised and carried out by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) in close cooperation with the Norwegian Polar Institute (NP) and Tromsø University Museum, and is currently financed by the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and the Norwegian Oil Industry Association. The data and knowledge is currently being organised for serving different users online via this web site.

Mapping

Within the scheduled programme period of ten years, SEAPOP aims to map in detail the distribution of breeding, staging and wintering seabirds along all coastlines of Norway and the Svalbard archipelago. For logistic and economic reasons, much of the highly dynamic distribution of seabirds at sea in the vast areas covered by the programme will be predicted using multi-disciplinary models. This work is done in close cooperation with the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen and is based on data collected on their ecosystem surveys in parts of the area.

Monitoring

Key-sites mapMonitoring key-sites. Color codes: Red=trad.loc. est. 1979-86, Orange=est. 2004-05, Yellow=est. 2007, Green=est. 2008, ?=planned The national monitoring of population trends that has been ongoing since the 1980s will be continued and extended with more sites and species. To help reveal as early as possible important environmental pressures acting on the populations, we have extended and further adjusted the monitoring of reproduction, adult survival rates and diets of selected seabird species on the three previously established key-sites Røst, Hornøya and Bjørnøya (i.e. Bear Island, see map) to meet the general design of the programme. Five new key-sites have now been established; on Runde, Sklinna, Anda and Hjelmsøya, and on western Spitsbergen. The latter is divided among several localities because there is no suitable single site in the area that holds a sufficient variety of breeding species. On the basis of time series that date back many years, a number of interesting trends for different species and parameters are now being uncovered, both within and between these colonies. When the programme is implemented on the full national scale in 2008, additional key-sites will be established in southern Norway. As most seabird species in that area are dispersed breeders, the work will most likely be divided over a selection of sites along the coasts of the North Sea and the Skagerrak. The existing SEAPOP key-sites as of 2007 are shown on the map.

Special studies

SEAPOP also funds a number of more specialised, shorter-term studies of seabird ecology and habitat use, some of which will apply sophisticated methods for automatic data recording.

Publication

Unfortunately, the SEAPOP web site is still in Norwegian only, but an English version is on its way. The web site will accumulate a lot of results generated by the programme. Although only licensed users are able to download raw data, a variety of pre-prepared information and data on seabird distribution and performance is made freely available. The site also contains an up-to-date list of scientific publications associated with the programme and summaries of the main results will be presented in annual reports, the three first of which have already been published. For pdf files, click references below.

References

  • Anker-Nilssen, T. (ed.), Barrett, R.T., Bustnes, J.O., Christensen-Dalsgaard, S., Erikstad, K.E., Fauchald, P., Lorentsen, S.-H., Steen, H., Strøm, H., Systad, G.H. & Tveraa, T. 2008. SEAPOP studies in the Barents and Norwegian Seas in 2007. NINA Rapport 363. 92 pp
  • Anker-Nilssen, T., Barrett, R.T., Bustnes, J.O., Erikstad, K.E., Fauchald, P., Lorentsen, S.-H.,  Steen, H., Strøm, H., Systad, G.H. & Tveraa, T. 2007. SEAPOP studies in the Lofoten and Barents Sea area in 2006. NINA Report 249, 68 pp.
  • Anker-Nilssen, T., Barrett, R.T., Bustnes, J.O., Erikstad, K.E., Fauchald, P., Lorentsen, S.-H.,  Steen, H., Strøm, H., Systad, G.H. & Tveraa, T. 2006. SEAPOP studies in the Lofoten and Barents Sea area in 2005. NINA Report 127, 38 pp