>>Department of Ecological Modelling >> Personal homepage Thorsten Wiegand >> 













Maite Louzao 




Marine protected areas for the conservation of marine top predators


Maite is an active ocean scientist especially interested in the conservation of marine top predators (e.g. seabirds, marine mammals, marine turtles, large predatory fishes, sharks) which are in rapid decline worldwide. Within this framework, she preformed her PhD on the Conservation Biology of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater, endemic to the Mediterranean, at IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) in Mallorca (Spain) and later she became interested in the marine top predators of the Southern Ocean. Assessing different conservation initiatives for marine top predators requires a multidisciplinary approach which integrates marine ecology, statistical analysis, and computation modelling in an innovative way. Collaborative work with Dr. Thorsten Wiegand (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ) and Dr. Henri Weimerskirch (CEBC-CNRS, France) will help fulfilling these challenges.


Postdoc project in Leipzig
The state of the global oceans is rapidly deteriorating due to the effect of human activities, and the extinction risk of marine species is far greater than previously thought. The main threat to the marine environment is posed by over-fishing, which has resulted, in many cases, in extinctions of both target and incidentally caught species of no commercial interest, including marine top predators (e.g. large pelagic fish, turtles, cetaceans, and seabirds). Seabirds belonging to the order Procellariiformes are amongst the most pelagic of seabirds and occur in all of the world’s oceans. Procellariiformes face many threats at their breeding habitat, but fishing activity is their main conservation problem in the marine environment since many thousands of birds are killed annually by longline fisheries and populations have shown marked declines over the last decades, especially in the Southern Ocean.

Maites will develop effective conservation strategies for marine top predators, taking into account their spatiotemporal population dynamics as well as the dynamics of longline fisheries. Our analytical approach will be based on data from the Tracking Ocean Wanderers conservation initiative, which is based on remote-tracking data covering over 90% of all extant albatross and petrel tracking data, with special focus on the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans


The complexity of these challenges requires a multidisciplinary approach which integrates marine ecology, statistical analysis, and computation modelling in an innovative way. Maite will apply the most appropriate recent techniques of GIS-based habitat modelling, individual-based and spatially-explicit, pattern-oriented, population viability analyses, and multi-criteria decision analysis. This combined approach facilitates the inclusion of data from various sources in a structurally realistic way into the model and allows performing simulations of different fishery management scenarios for studying their effectiveness, which is impossible in the sea.



    Colony of Wandering Albatross in Crozet (Photo: A. Jaeger)



     Breeding pair of Wandering Albatross in Crozet (Photo: V. Lecomte).



PhD Project

Maites PhD project was focussed on the Conservation Biology of the Critically Endangered Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus carried out at the Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats (IMEDEA - Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies, CSIC-UIB, Mallorca, Spain), under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Oro and Dr. Pep Arcos (IMEDEA and SEO/BirdLife, respectively). The main goal was to provide a conservation diagnosis of this endemic species to the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean, through the study of its life-history traits and interactions with the marine environment. The monitoring programme of the Balearic shearwater was established in 1997 under the auspicious of the Balearic Government. The Population Ecology research group conducted the monitoring programme between 2001 and 2004. Maite took actively taken part in the surveys during these years, monitoring the breeding cycle of the species and manipulating individuals for capture-recapture, banding, morphometric measurements, blood and feather sampling. This study has been one of the the first which integrated the study of the two habitat components of seabirds: the breeding colonies on land and the foraging grounds at sea. The study was carried out under the DISCBIRD European Project. The main aim was to provide detailed information of the impact of discard rate changes on seabird communities, both in the North Sea and western Mediterranean, in order to minimize the impacts of this management measure.


  Balearic shearwater flying (Photo: JM Arcos)


  Balearic shearwater breeding in Mallorca (Photo: D. Oro)


    Modified: 07.04.2009   Resp.: Thorsten Wiegand     webmaster