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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Heather Norton

Dynamic Modelling for Tristan Albatross Conservation
The Tristan Albatross, a seabird that breeds primarily on Gough  Island in the Atlantic Ocean, is currently  Critically Endangered.  The  System Dynamics  methodology  created by Jay Forrester, coupled with the  processing of spatial  data  sets in Python  and  R, was used to investigate the characteristics of an effective  intervention to protect  this  species.  Using  the  current  best  estimates of adult  survival  rate  and breeding success (the percentage of eggs that survive  to become juvenile albatross), the Tristan Albatross is expected to exhibit a decline  of 6.7± 0.2%; when fisheries by- catch  is addressed without changing mouse predation this decline  can  be reduced to 2.0 ±0.1%, and when mice impacts are addressed without modifying fisheries bycatch this decline is projected to reduce to 4.6 ±0.1 %. Given the population  dynamics of the Tristan Albatross, a minimum adult breeding rate of approximately 95.3%  is estimated to be  necessary in order  for the  population  to be  stable, provided  that  the  breeding success rate  is equal  to the natural  breeding success rate.  It was concluded that the most  practical  intervention  to cease the  population  decline  of the  Tristan  Albatross would likely entail both the eradication of mice from Gough  Island  and  a reduction in fisheries bycatch of approximately 94%.   The  spatial  areas with highest potential  for bycatch mortality have  been identified.  Finally, it was found that eradicating mice from Gough  Island  would also  eradicate a credible  risk that  climate  change could  impact the Tristan Albatross population  by increasing the densities of the mice population.