Helping the Shy Albatross Adapt to Climate Change

Helping Tassie’s Shy Albatross Adapt to Climate Change

A good-news story from the pristine coastline of Tasmania, where the threatened Shy Albatross has been helped over the last 5 years to adapt to climate change.

A shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) sitting on its egg in an artificial nest, Albatross Island, Tasmania, Oct 2017. Photo by Matthew Newton WWF Australia

Tasmania’s shy albatross population is facing breeding challenges as a result of climate change. To protect the future of the species, WWF-Australia is collaborating with the Tasmanian State Government environment department (DPIPWE) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to install artificial nests in an effort to increase the number of surviving chicks.

The shy albatross faces a variety of threats across their range. Their different life history stages make them particularly sensitive to the unprecedented changes in climate occurring in both their marine foraging habitats and the terrestrial breeding environments. For example, higher air temperatures during the chick-rearing period are associated with fewer eggs successfully producing chicks at the end of the breeding season, and their nests are susceptible to extreme rainfall events and wind.

Specially built mudbrick and aerated concrete artificial nests were airlifted on to Bass Strait’s Albatross Island in a trial program aimed at increasing the breeding success of the Tasmanian shy albatrosses to offset the impacts of climate change on this vulnerable species. In total, 123 artificial nests were made and installed on Albatross Island in July 2017. The albatross readily and immediately adopted their new nests, even personalizing them with mud and vegetation.

Follow-up monitoring throughout the breeding season confirmed high rates of uptake, with eggs laid in 90% of the artificial nests. By the end of the season, breeding success (that is, the proportion of eggs laid that produce chicks that survive to fledging) in the artificial nests was more than twice as high as in the naturally built nests in the study.  

Scientists install the artificial nests. Photo by Matthew Newton – WWF Australia


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