Seabirds are key indicators of marine ecosystem health. However, seabirds populations decline faster than any other comparable group of bird, mainly due to human activities.
Extremely large MPAs (those larger than 100,000 km2) encompassing both marine and terrestrial Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (mIBA and tIBA respectively) have been proposed as an important component of conservation.
My study site in the central Indian Ocean is one of the largest tropical pelagic MPAs created and holds some 250-300,000 pairs of breeding seabirds of 18 species. To date, ten tIBAs have been designated and a further two proposed with all ten designated tIBAs having mIBAs based upon them. All these IBAs were based on temporally and spatially limited data which was gathered over 25 years ago.
Using GPS tracking data gathered from colonies of Red-footed Booby in the south, west and northeast of the MPA, this terrestrial and marine data will be used to review both the terrestrial and marine IBAs of the MPA and will contribute to a larger western Indian Ocean seabird project, assessing the efficacy of an extremely large tropical MPA for the conservation of seabirds.
Rat eradication and rehabilitation of island ecosystems in the MPA is critical to the restoration of seabird populations throughout the Indian Ocean.
Sentinel Species ResearchThe Importance of the British Indian Ocean Territory for Seabirds
Rats were introduced in to the Chagos Archipelago by man. Alongside native habitat destruction as a consequence of coconut farming, these two factors have caused cataclysmic declines in the numbers of seabirds breeding in the archipelago over a period of less than 150 years. I managed the successful eradication of rats from three islands in the Chagos MPA in 2014 and I am currently the team leader in the largest eradication of rats and mice from an inhabited island (Lord Howe, Australia).
I am also the author of Birds of the British Indian Ocean Territory.