“Success is no accident. It is hard work, preserverence, learning and studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing.”
Unknown author

Here you can see the progress of our work, what have we achieved and what is yet to come.


ACHIEVED RESULTS

FIELDWORK RESEARCH

PREPARATORY ACTIONS

  • Study visit to Malta – at the beginning of the project BIOM and Lastovo staff visited Malta and were trained in surveys & rat eradication/control.
  • Testing tagging of seabirds – Tags were deployed on Yelkouan Shearwaters in Malta’s largest colony for testing the devices. Testing showed these specific tags are not ideal for tagging during incubation because the battery quickly drains without frequent charging through the built in solar panel. However, data was successfully collected during the chick rearing when the birds fly out at sea during the day. The 3 tagged Yelkouans in Malta, travelled as far as the Gulf of Gabes, Tunisia, and to the south of Italy.
  • Systematic mapping of colonies & assessment of colony size – islands in project area were surveyed several times, present seabird colonies of Yelkouan & Scopoli’s Shearwaters and Audouin’s Gulls were mapped and sizes assessed; incubating Yelkouan Shearwaters were counted, nests were marked and georeferenced; a small new colonies of Scopoli’s Shearwater were found on islet of Podkopište and Lukovac; sound recorders were deployed in order to assess the colony size since these seabird species are highly vocal, sound recorders can help in quantifying vocal activity in seabird colonies and assess the colony size (sound recorders are used to estimate population size for nocturnal burrow-nesting seabirds because it is logistically challenging to assess the size as these seabirds are active in colonies only during darkness and often nest on remote islands where direct surveillance of breeding colonies is not feasible).
  • Assessment of reproductive output on major seabird colonies – all seabird colonies were surveyed in May, June and July and previously marked nests were revisited; all reachable chicks were ringed and weighted; breeding success of Yelkouan Shearwater was estimated for all sites; initial number of nesting Scolopi’s Shearwaters was determined for all sites.
  • Marine litter threat assessment – monitoring of three beaches was conducted in October, along with open sea marine litter monitoring on linear transects; all marine litter was categorized and counted for further assessment.
  • Assessment of mammal predation impact on colonies reproductive output – camera traps were set on Zaklopatica and Smokvica for the purpose of determining the presence of ship rats; intense rat activity was recorded on both islands; waxblocks were put to monitor rat presence on Zaklopatica and Srednji Lukovac;  rat presence was determined on all visited islands and mammal predation impact was assessed; by the end of the project this impact should be reduced
  • Assessment of impact of Yellow-legged Gulls on the Audouin’s Gull – predation of Yellow-legged Gulls on Audouin’s Gull chicks was confirmed on Smokvica Island
  • Feasibility study for invasive mammals’ eradication at seabird colonies on Sušac –  BL Malta and Dr. Karen Varnham participated in fieldwork on Lastovo to assess the potential eradication of introduced rats from Sušac Island and other islets in the archipelago with nesting seabirds. Rats are very damaging to the seabird community due to nest predation. The remoteness of Sušac make it attractive for such a project since once eradicated rats are very unlikely to re-invade, but its steep topography, dense vegetation and the same remoteness might pose some logistical issues. Further data collection is required to inform a complete feasibility study.

CONSERVATION ACTIONS

  • Ship rat population control on the chosen islands – Rat control was conducted on islands of Zaklopatica (main colony of Yelkouan Shearwater) and Smokvica (colony of Audouin’s Gull);  traps were deployed on islands, revisited and rebaited; on the last visit Good Nature traps and camera traps were put as biosecurity to record rat activity; 61 rats were removed from Smokvica (6,08 ha) and 35 rats were removed from Zaklopatica (1,7 ha); Zaklopatica has since been monitored with camera traps & waxblocks and no rat presence has been recorded during fledging of both Yelkouan and Scopoli’s Shearwaters, however, the rats returned afterwards
  • Audouin’s Gull breeding habitat improvement – Smokvica Island was surveyed, all Yellow-legged Gulls nests were marked and 70% of eggs were pierced; the conservation action was not successful in 2019 due to continued presence and breeding success of Yellow – legged Gulls
  • Sea transects to map at-sea distribution of seabird species – seabird counting with boat survey was repeated every month from March until October within a 9 nautical miles radius around Lastovo Islands; for mapping purposes exact location for each bird was recorded using a GPS device
  • Seabird tracking – 20 adult Yelkouan Shearwaters from Zaklopatica were tracked using GPS UHF devices; 10 Audouin’s Gull and 10 YLG from Smokvica were tracked using GPS GSM devices; 2 adult Scopoli’s Shearwaters were fitted with GPS UHF devices on Srednji Lukovac; both islands were visited regularly to collect data with base station

MONITORING OF THE IMPACT OF THE PROJECT ACTIONS

  • Plant community composition and abundance survey – survey was implemented on 10 islands with the purpose of monitoring of impacts on ecosystem functions; inventory of flora and vegetation survey were conducted in order to have baseline data before the eradication of rats; the same will be repeated after the eradication; every island that was visited is different related to its flora and vegetation, they are mostly covered with forest or shrubs (macchia, mattoral), but the most remote islands (Vrhovnjac) are covered with grassland
  • Lizard community composition and abundance survey – survey was implemented on 10 islands with the purpose of monitoring of impacts on ecosystem functions; the survey was conducted in order to have baseline data before the eradication of rats; the same will be repeated after the eradication; 4 islands without recorded rat presence were used as control; the methodology used is the distance sampling with the method of linear transect where the researcher walks alongside the imaginary transect and counts number of lizards and their distance from the linear transect in order to assess the population abundance

MEETINGS AND EVENTS

PUBLICATIONS

OTHER

EXPECTED RESULTS

  • A complete estimate of the sea population of the Yelkouan Shearwater, Audouin’s Gull and Scopoli’s Shearwater, identifying important areas for feeding and resting on the sea.
  • Estimation of the presence and level of terrestrial and marine threats to seabird populations (predators, competition with other species, marine litter, disturbance by visitors, by catch in fishing gear etc.).
  • Individual tracking of 40 Scopoli’s Shearwater, 40 Yelkouan Shearwater and 15 Audoin’s Gull using remote sensing (data loggers, UHF radio transmitters and satellite transmitters).
  • Proclamation of marine SPAs based on data obtained and submitted to competent institutions.
  • Improvement of Management Plan for Nature Park Lastovo Islands/SPA Lastovsko otočje with a specific framework for monitoring of marine birds.
  • Monitoring of the relevant fishery fleet (at least 10%) operating in the project area to estimate the level of bycatch.
  • Mitigation methods implemented by at least 10% of relevant fishing fleets.
  • Publication and distribution of good practice guidelines for marine birds, with emphasis on rules of behavior when encountering marine birds for tourists, tourist boat owners and fishermen.
  • Control of Yellow-legged Gull population at two locations where they overlap with the Audouin’s Gull population.
  • Eradication of ship rats on remote islets where seabirds nest in the Nature Park Lastovo Islands/SPA Lastovsko otočje.
  • Black rat population controlled on the islets located near the inhabited places in Nature Park Lastovo Islands/SPA Lastovsko otočje.
  • Organized Conference on conservation of marine birds in the Mediterranean, the designation of the marine areas of the Natura 2000 ecological network and cross-border cooperation.
  • Developed birdwatching offer for visitors of Nature Park Lastovo Islands/SPA Lastovsko otočje.
  • Developed and installed educational-interpretation path on seabirds in the Nature Park Lastovo Islands/SPA Lastovsko otočje.
  • Developed and implemented educational programme on seabirds for the children on the islands Vis, Lastovo, Korčula.
  • Developed and implemented a series of seabird awareness rising public events on Vis and Lastovo (exhibition on seabirds, night of Albatros, coastal and underwater cleaning actions).