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Bird ranges offer protected area pointers.

Scientists have mapped the foraging ranges of 25 species or British seabird and are calling for the UK government to use this information to help plan marine protected areas (MPAs).

The UK government is expected to establish a network of MPAs to manage and conserve marine ecosystems by next year. And although it's widely accepted that seabirds are vital to such ecosystems, until now, these species have received little protection at sea. This is partly because there is scant information available on the marine regions that they use at the different stages of their lifecycle.

The new study aims to improve that situation. Produced by the British Trust for Ornithology, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Birdlife International, and published in Biological Conservation, it used results from tracking studies, indirect measures using flight speeds and time activity, and survey-based observations to calculate ranges over which seabirds might forage.

It found that northern gannets and northern fulmar had the largest foraging ranges (590 and 580 kilometres respectively), while red-throated divers had the smallest (nine kilometres).

The results can be used as the first step in identifying ocean areas away from breeding colonies that may be crucial for sustaining seabirds, said the authors. 'Representative foraging ranges may be useful to suggest likely colony specific foraging areas, prior to habitat-association modelling for defining candidate MPAs,' they wrote. 'The approach here has international applicability and would help progress towards more comprehensive protection of seabird populations.'

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Title Annotation:WORLDWATCH
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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