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Rockhopper Species Action Plan for the Falklands.

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A Species Action Plan for southern rockhopper penguins at the Falkland Islands has been completed and is now available for download.

Action Plan for Southern Rockhopper Penguins_Falkland Islands_2014-2020 Filesize 783.2 KB Download 2327
 

 

At the Falklands there are 4 species that have IUCN status of ‘Vulnerable’, including the southern rockhopper penguin, Eudyptes c. chrysocome. Rockhopper penguins have experienced population declines throughout their breeding ranges with some of the largest occurring at the Falklands. Despite seeing population increases between the 2005 and 2010 island-wide censuses, the Falklands’ population is still only 20% of that estimated 80 years ago.

 

RHPlanding

 

Threatening processes for Falkland Southern Rockhopper penguins

 

Rockhopper penguins come ashore to breed but rely on vast areas of the ocean to feed, and it is in their ocean environments that rockhoppers face their highest threats.

 

So how do you go about protecting a species that relies on vast areas of the sea for its survival? Climate change is predicted to have an impact but at the moment this is at an unknown level – it’s simply too early to pinpoint how the population will respond to climate induced changes. However, emerging information through research on New Island is showing that shifts in sea temperatures and wind patterns, which alter the availability or ease of capturing prey, do act negatively on individual survival. At the same time, human activities in the surrounding seas can also influence modifications to the ocean’s food systems such as large-scale commercial fisheries. More recently hydrocarbon development poses a direct risk through pollution.

The way forward?

 

The main emphasis of the Species Action Plan is to highlight how important and valuable long-term monitoring will be to better understand this long-lived, but slow reproducing species. The continuation of the Falkland Islands Seabird Monitoring Programme, led by Falklands Conservation, will provide good long-term information but crucially, must be robust enough to relate population trends with changes that become apparent in the marine and terrestrial environments. The continuation of the demographic study through the New Island Conservation Trust was also ranked as a high priority, as was investigating the impacts of the current offshore hydrocarbon industry.

 

The challenge for the southern rockhopper penguin will be making this species more resilient in its marine environment, especially in the face of changing climatic conditions and increasing marine resource extraction, and this will need to involve careful considerations in the future management of our marine spaces.

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