Monitoring population size in seabirds

Seabirds are good indicators that react early to changes in the marine environment. One of the simplest units of measurement for how seabirds react to changes is how the populations change from year to year. In Norway, the populations of breeding and overwintering seabirds have been monitored for over 30 years, and the longest time series have more than 50 years of data.

Population monitoring is important, and can provide early signals to the management and research environments as to what is happening in marine ecosystems. The results can also be used to develop management plans for our sea areas, in connection with the Red List evaluations that are done every fifth year, and to create action plans for vulnerable species. Monitoring data is also important in the evaluations of the effects of management measures taken (e.g., protecting areas), and it is a natural starting point when setting timeframes for hunting or if the occurrence and spread of disease is detected (e.g., bird influenza).

As far as research is concerned, the population monitoring results create a solid foundation for many scientific inquiries, e.g., which environmental conditions drive population changes and whether seabirds change their distribution (e.g., overwintering areas) as a response to climate change.