Population growth estimates of a threatened seabird indicate necessity for additional management following invasive predator eradications
2020-06-11T20:00:26Z (GMT) by
© 2019 The Zoological Society of London The eradication of invasive predators from islands is a successful technique to safeguard seabird populations, but adequate post-eradication monitoring of native species is often lacking. The Whenua Hou Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides whenuahouensis; WHDP) is a recently-described and ‘Critically Endangered’ seabird, restricted to Codfish Island (Whenua Hou), New Zealand. Invasive predators, considered the major threat to WHDP, were eradicated on Codfish Island in 2000. However, estimates of WHDP population size and trends remain unknown, hindering assessments of the success of the eradications. We collated intermittent burrow counts (n = 20 seasons) conducted between 1978 and 2018. To estimate the population growth rate (λ) before and after predator eradications, we used log-linear models in a Bayesian hierarchical framework while retrospectively accounting for differences in detection probabilities among burrow counts, due to differences in effort, marking and timing. The number of WHDP burrows was estimated at 40 (36–46) in 1978 and 100 (97–104) in 2018. The pre-eradication λ was estimated at 1.023 (0.959–1.088), while the post-eradications λ was estimated at 1.017 (1.006–1.029). The WHDP population appears to be increasing, yet the rate of increase is low compared to other Procellariiformes following predator eradications. The comparatively low post-eradication λ, combined with an apparent lack of change between pre- and post-eradication λ, indicates that additional threats might be limiting WHDP population growth and that further conservation management is required. The continuation of affordable and simple, albeit imperfect, monitoring methods with retrospective corrections facilitated the assessment of invasive predator eradications outcomes and should guide future management decisions. An abstract in Te Reo Māori (the Māori language) can be found in Appendix S1.