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Conserving tropical fauna on British overseas islands: the Roseate Tern and the Magnificent Frigate Bird

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are home to 15 species of exotic breeding seabird but populations are declining dramatically. With limited logistical capacity to launch conservation measures and a sketchy understanding of the species at risk, conservation efforts to date have been relatively ineffective. Funded by the UK, this project lead by Dr Lewis Halsey (Department of Life Sciences) will conduct comprehensive seabird surveys, track seabird movements and trial habitat enhancements, in order to generate a recovery plan for these charismatic species.

Posted: 4 December 2014

image for news story Conserving tropical fauna on British overseas islands: the Roseate Tern and the Magnificent Frigate Bird
The BVI is home to 15 species of breeding seabird, including globally important populations of  magnificent Frigate Bird and Roseate Tern, regionally important populations of eight species and an  unquantified population of Audubon’s shearwater. However, seabird populations are declining (e.g. 1200+ breeding pairs of roseate terns were reported in 1995, dropping to 550 pairs in 2004/2005 and 100-300 pairs recorded during preliminary surveys undertaken in 2014).

The BVI has limited capacity to implement seabird conservation strategies. This, coupled with a lack of understanding of breeding biology and habitat use of seabirds within the territory makes it difficult to respond to threats and population declines.

To address this the project will (i) conduct the first comprehensive seabird surveys since 2004/5; (ii) track movements of roseate terns to determine breeding site fidelity and foraging movements; (iii) trial habitat enhancement measures; (iv) develop a recovery plan based on survey and movement data, threat assessment, and stakeholder analysis.

This project supports key BVI environmental priorities including fulfilment of national planning  instruments (National Integrated Development Strategy, 2007 -2017 Protected Areas System Plan) and commitments of regional and international environmental agreements, (e.g., Caribbean Challenge, BVI Environmental Charter and Convention on Biological Diversity).

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