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The cormorant -- the 'black plague' or an example of successful species conservation?
Date:6/4/2008

now being applied religiously. This plan is structured with alternatives, which are introduced progressively and only implemented if the previous stage remained unsuccessful: 1. no intervention, 2. scaring birds (without shooting), 3. limiting local damage at commercial fish ponds, 4. strictly monitored reduction of resources, 5. reduction of regional populations, and 6. opening up national hunting as a last alternative. In this way the cormorant population in North America is to be reduced by approximately 160,000 birds, which according to estimations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not lead to any apparent negative consequences for the population.

Apart from the institutional shortcomings in Europe, there is yet another reason why past attempts to regulate cormorant populations have failed. The structure of the cormorant population makes their regulation difficult: "Some of the birds are not breeding in spite of being sexually mature, because they are waiting for the chance to occupy a free nesting spot to be able to provide for their young", explains Sten Zeibig from the UFZ, who is currently working on a model of the cormorant population in Europe. "These so-called floaters provide a kind of natural buffer that protects the population from severe losses after disasters. If the breeding birds are killed, then the 'floaters' will take their place until this buffer is depleted, and the population breaks down to the point of being threatened with extinction."

In his model, Zeibig ran different scenarios and came to the following result: The most effective and also most ecologically compatible option was to reduce the capacity of the environment for breeding birds in that for example dead trees used for nesting are felled, and additionally preventing new nests from being built. Likewise smaller and medium-sized fish ponds can be covered with nets. "With this option one would kill two birds with one stone: The losses of fishermen would be r
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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