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

SEAPOP (SEAbird POPulations) is a long-term monitoring and mapping programme for Norwegian seabirds that was established in 2005. The programme covers seabird populations 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.

Organizing and funding

All work within SEAPOP is organized and conducted by personnell at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) and Tromsø Museum (TMU). Researchers from these three institutions form the SEAPOP Expert Group. The programme is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, and the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association. The SEAPOP Board is comprised by members of the Norwegian Environment Agency, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the Norwegian Maritime Authority, the Norwegian Coastal Administration and the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association. The Institute for Marine Research (IMR), NINA and NPI participate as observers/advicors in the steering committee. Data and knowledge produced by the programme is continuously organized and presented on this web site in order to serve various users.

Monitoring

SEAPOP key sitesSEAPOP key sites as of 2015. The colors of the symbols refer to the different maritime zones related to the key sites; the northern Barents Sea (dark blue), the southern Barents Sea (light blue), the Norwegian Sea (green), the North Sea (orange) abd Skagerrak (red). Key sites representing two different maritime zones have two colors. Large circles indicate main sites, while small circles represent associated sub-sites. Triangles indicate key sites on which the work is focused on a single species (ivory gull on Barentsøya, common eider on Grindøya, lesser black-backed gull in Sør-Helgeland and European shag in Rogaland). Map: SEAPOP

The national monitoring of seabird population development was started in the 1980s and is now continued for several species in a number of locations. Furthermore, we have expanded and adjusted the monitoring of reproduction, diet and adult survival rate for a number of selected species in the previously established key sites on Røst, Hornøya and Bjørnøya, and we have established 13 new key sites from Spitsbergen in the north to Vest-Agder in the south. This is necessary in order to identify the environmental impacts affecting the populations at an early stage. By utilizing time series data collected over several decades, SEAPOP reveals a series of interesting trends for different species and parameters, both within key sites and over larger regions. Since most seabird species present along the Norwegian coast and Skagerrak have a scattered nesting distribution, the monitoring is distributed over a large number of locations.

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 conducted in cooperation with the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen and is based on data collected on their ecosystem surveys in parts of the area.

Special studies

SEAPOP also funds a number of more specialised, shorter-term studies of seabird ecology and habitat use. These studies are aimed at species that are particularly vulnerable to certain environmental influences, or that in some way are of special interest or valuable in terms of conservation.

Publication

Unfortunately, most of the SEAPOP web site is still in Norwegian only, but we are working on expanding the English version. The web site will accumulate and communicate 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. These and other publications that have been produced and facilitated for by SEAPOP can be found under Publications.