COVID-19 lockdown reveals tourists as seabird guardians


The widespread lockdowns put in place to limit the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) offers a rare opportunity in understanding how human presence influence ecosystems. Using data from long-term seabird monitoring, we reveal a previously concealed guarding effect by tourist groups on an iconic seabird colony in the Baltic Sea.

The absence of tourists in 2020 lead to a sevenfold increase in presence of white-tailed eagles Haliaeetus albicilla, a sevenfold increase in their disturbance of breeding common murres Uria aalge and causing 26% lower murre productivity than the long-term average.

Eagles did not prey on murres, but their frequent disturbances delayed egg laying and facilitated egg predation from herring gulls Larus argentatus and hooded crows Corvus cornix. Based on our findings, we suggest that human presence could be used as a strategic measure in guarding seabird colonies, and that a social-ecological systems perspective is vital for long-term success in protected area management.


Link to centre authors: Olsson, Olof
Publication info: Hentati-Sundberg, J., Berglund, P.A., Hejdström, A. and Olsson, O. 2021. COVID-19 lockdown reveals tourists as seabird guardians. Biological Conservation, p.108950. Vancouver.

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