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Abstract

Socotra Cormorants (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) are a regionally endemic, locally abundant species restricted primarily to the Arabian Gulf and coastal Oman. The species has declined since the 1980s and is currently categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Breeding phenology, breeding performance and variation in breeding population size were studied on Siniya Island, the largest colony in the United Arab Emirates. Laying dates were between 13 September and 6 October during the 2011- 2015 breeding seasons. Incubation was estimated to be 24-27 days, and clutch size ranged from 2.21-2.79 eggs/ nest. Hatching success ranged from 58.71 ± 5.85 in 2011 to 81.76 ± 4.86% in 2012. The total population varied over the 5 years of study from 28,152 ± 3,780 pairs in 2011 to 41,568 ± 3,761 pairs in 2014. Population estimates using density-area calculations were closely aligned with ground counts. The use of a drone with a mounted camera greatly improved the counts in 2015. The Socotra Cormorant breeding population on Siniya Island appears to be stable over the short term with annual fluctuations comparable to other cormorant species. Thus, our data suggest the breeding population on Siniya Island could have surpassed that of other colonies in the Arabian Gulf, underscoring its global significance.

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... The total population of this regionally endemic species is estimated to be 750,000 individuals, most of which resides within the Arabian Gulf, with a small, disjunct population residing within the southern Omani waters. Foraging flocks of more than 100,000 birds may be seen in some parts of the Arabian Gulf, suggesting that there is a high abundance of forage fish to sustain such populations (Jennings, 2010;Muzaffar et al., 2017a, Table 1). ...
... Nesting is no longer reported from Kuwait and Iran (Jennings, 2010) although non-breeding birds continue to disperse throughout the Arabian Gulf. Currently, three islands in Saudi Arabia (in the Gulf of Salwa), one island in Bahrain, one island in Qatar and up to 11 islands in the United Arab Emirates (Jennings, 2010;Muzaffar et al., 2017a;Khan et al., 2018;Fig. 1 , Table 1) support the entire breeding population within the Arabian Gulf. ...
... The total population is not estimated for individual sites. (Data extracted from Jennings, 2010, Muzaffar et al., 2017a, BirdLife International, 2018, and Khan et al., 2018 (King, 1999, Jennings, 2010. On the eastern side of Qatar, there has been consistent declines in some of the Abu Dhabi (UAE) colonies (e.g. ...
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Seabirds form important components of marine ecosystems, serving as top predators that indicate long-term stability through feeding interactions. Many species of seabirds reside within the Arabian Gulf although their role in this marine system is not well characterized. Furthermore, oil exploitation and development activities have reduced many species significantly. In this review, I use the Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) as an example of the biology, movement and conservation of seabirds in the Arabian Gulf. Socotra Cormorants are among the most numerically abundant seabirds residing within the Arabian Gulf. The species has a restricted range spanning from Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and south into the Gulf of Aden. They are categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Between 56,800-82,800 breeding pairs occur in the United Arab Emirates on 9-12 islands. Breeding season stretches from August to December although delayed or disrupted breeding could result in breeding seasons extending to March. They feed on small forage fish including anchovies (Encrasicholina spp.) with potentially high biomass of small fish taken annually totaling to 11,000-18,000 tons annually. Foraging activities occur in coastal, shallow waters under 15m in depth. On Siniya Island in the east, migration begins in December and birds fly to the central portion of the Arabian Gulf within waters of Abu Dhabi. Summer roosting areas could be associated with movement of fish in to deeper, low-productivity waters during the harsh summers. Patterns of foraging during the breeding season and migration after breeding activities highlight areas that need protection. Future protection of the species would require coordination between different jurisdictions within UAE as well as in Oman.
... On the other hand, the use of satellite telemetry technology has helped identify important breeding colonies of birds or other coastal bird areas within the UAE, i.e. Socotra cormorant and Greater flamingo in the UAE (Javed et al., 2019;Muzaffar et al., 2017a). Currently, there are between 14 and 17 nesting sites of Socotra cormorant consisting of small to medium sized islands within the Arabian Gulf, of which 9-12 are located within UAE (Muzaffar et al., 2017a;Khan et al., 2018;Muzaffar, 2020). ...
... Socotra cormorant and Greater flamingo in the UAE (Javed et al., 2019;Muzaffar et al., 2017a). Currently, there are between 14 and 17 nesting sites of Socotra cormorant consisting of small to medium sized islands within the Arabian Gulf, of which 9-12 are located within UAE (Muzaffar et al., 2017a;Khan et al., 2018;Muzaffar, 2020). Breeding and roosting areas are of high conservation priority and need to be monitored, and some of them protected, to safeguard the globally threatened Socotra cormorant (Muzaffar et al., 2017b;Khan et al., 2018). ...
... Breeding and roosting areas are of high conservation priority and need to be monitored, and some of them protected, to safeguard the globally threatened Socotra cormorant (Muzaffar et al., 2017b;Khan et al., 2018). For example, the single, large Socotra cormorant breeding colony of Siniya Island in Umm Al Quwain hosts around ~40% of the UAE population (Khan et al., 2018;Muzaffar et al., 2017a;Muzaffar, 2020). Siniya Island is not currently under any protection and has already being highlighted as priority area for conservation in the UAE (Ben Lamine et al., 2020). ...
Article
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) host valuable coastal and marine biodiversity that is subjected to multiple pressures under extreme conditions. To mitigate impacts on marine ecosystems, the UAE protects almost 12% of its Exclusive Economic Zone. This study mapped and validated the distribution of key coastal and marine habitats, species and critical areas for their life cycle in the Gulf area of the UAE. We identified gaps in the current protection of these ecological features and assessed the quality of the data used. The overall dataset showed good data quality, but deficiencies in information for the coastline of the northwestern emirates. The existing protected areas are inadequate to safeguard key ecological features such as mangroves and coastal lagoons. This study offers a solid basis to understand the spatial distribution and protection of marine biodiversity in the UAE. This information should be considered for implementing effective conservation planning and ecosystem-based management.
... Fourteen colonies are currently known in the Arabian Gulf and at least seven colonies are extinct due to oil exploitation activities and concomitant disturbances of islands that seabirds used to breed on (Jennings 2010, BirdLife International 2017. Two major breeding concentrations are known; 1) the Gulf of Salwa region west of Qatar hosts about 20 000-50 000 pairs on three islands belonging to Saudi Arabia and one island belonging to Bahrain; and 2) Siniya Island, in the south-eastern portion of the Arabian Gulf, within the United Arab Emirates (UAE), hosting 28 000-41 000 pairs (representing about 30-40% of the global breeding population) (Jennings 2010, Muzaffar et al. 2017a. In addition to these major concentrations, there are another eight colonies off the coast of Abu Dhabi, UAE and one colony near Qatar (Jennings 2010), each hosting from a few hundred to fewer than 3000 pairs. ...
... Socotra cormorants breed between August and December on Siniya Island (Jennings 2010, Muzaffar et al. 2012, 2017a. Birds typically depart from Siniya Island by January after breeding activities have concluded (Muzaffar et al. 2017b). ...
... The adults show limited aggression towards non-avian threats and are prone to abandoning nests when threatened (Muzaffar et al. 2013). Socotra cormorants on Siniya Island typically lay between 3-4 eggs, incubating them for 20-25 days (Muzaffar et al. 2017a). About 51-81% hatching success has been reported (Muzaffar et al. 2012(Muzaffar et al. , 2015(Muzaffar et al. , 2017a. ...
Article
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Predation by both native and introduced terrestrial predators is a major threat to colonially breeding seabirds leading to low breeding success and negative demographic effects. The Socotra cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis is a regionally endemic seabird categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN. It breeds on islands in the southern Arabian Gulf and in the Gulf of Oman. One colony, Siniya Island, on the northern United Arab Emirates hosts about 40% of the global breeding population. Socotra cormorants are ground nesters and are vulnerable to predation by native Arabian red foxes Vulpes vulpes arabica, occuring naturally on Siniya island. We used camera trapping to estimate the population size and diet composition of foxes on the island. A total of 24 foxes were identified including adults and cubs, and cormorants and their eggs dominated the fox's diet (80%) during the breeding season. We estimated that the foxes killed >3500 cormorants during the season. The cormorant population was modelled using Vortex. The simulated population increased from 46 500 individuals (corresponding to the known population in 1995) to stabilize between 154 000 and 188 000 birds after 2010 in the absence of mortality from predation. Simulated mortality showed various degrees of population suppression and increasing extinction probabilities at higher degrees of predation. The model was more sensitive to predation of adult birds. Predation rates causing up to 35% juvenile mortality stabilized at <250 000 birds. Contrastingly, adult mortality of >25% caused the population to stabilize at <80 000 birds. Actual population estimates from 2011-2015 ranged from 79 000-124 000 birds. Thus, our model suggested that the cormorant population was suppressed due to predation at levels consistent with 20-25% adult mortality in the simulated population. Continual monitoring of the impact of foxes is essential and management of foxes may be recommended as a conservation measure if predation pressure increased.
... The increase in nesting numbers at Ghagah and Yasat is assumed to be from breeding birds from other UAE colonies or it may be due to relocation of breeding birds displaced from colonies to the east of Qatar, though arrival of birds from the Gulf of Salwa seems unlikely and cannot be confirmed without ringing or tracking data. Interestingly, nesting numbers at Siniya in Umm Al Qawain also increased from 15,500 in the 1990s (Aspinall 1995) to more than 40,000 pairs in 2014 and stabilised in the last decade (Muzaffar et al. 2017a). Based on these numbers (using 2014 data for all UAE colonies), the overall nesting population for UAE is estimated to be between 60,000 pairs to 70,000 pairs, which is more than 50% of global breeding population of 110,000 pairs. ...
... This is a significant increase in UAE nesting population from earlier reported proportion of 15% (Aspinall 1995) and 30% (Jennings 2010) of the Arabian Gulf breeding population of 220,000 and 110,000 pairs respectively. Along with recent information on the breeding population of UAE, updated information from other Gulf colonies is necessary to reassess the changes in nesting population in the Arabian Gulf , Khan et al. 2009, Muzaffar et al. 2017a. ...
... Digala is the only open access colony with a significant nesting population; any threat may result in abandonment of this newly established colony. Socotra Cormorant nesting populations are known for fluctuations that are not properly understood (Jennings 2010) and periodic cycles of high and low numbers are recorded at sites with regular annual breeding (Muzaffar et al. 2017a) which might depend upon water quality conditions within the Gulf that influence food availability (Aspinall 1995) and disturbance levels at breeding colonies. In order to monitor Socotra Cormorant breeding over its entire range for a long period of time, decadal census can be a useful tool to understand changes in status of breeding colonies and changes in nesting populations. ...
Article
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United Arab Emirates is an important range country for the ‘Vulnerable’ Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis and Abu Dhabi Emirate holds most of the remaining breeding colonies. Emirate-wide monitoring of all breeding colonies was undertaken annually for 11 breeding seasons from 2006–2007 to 2016–2017 to monitor the status of breeding colonies and estimate the nesting population. Breeding was recorded in 10 colonies that were used intermittently with an average of four (± 1.3 SD) colonies active each year. The highest number of eight active colonies was recorded in 2016–2017. Establishment of two new breeding colonies on Butinah and Digala in 2016–2017 and recolonisation of three previously inactive colonies during the monitoring period emphasised the ability of the species to relocate and colonise suitable sites. Continued threats at some breeding colonies caused abandonment and subsequent relocation, resulting in a gradual shift of breeding colonies to safer areas. Presently, most of the breeding sites (62%) with an increased number of breeding birds are found in colonies with restricted access. The Emirate-wide nesting population witnessed a 10-fold increase in the last decade; after an initial decline in 2006–2007 it increased from about 5,000 pairs in 2007–2008 to nearly 52,000 nesting pairs in 2016–2017. Combined with the nesting population from the Siniya colony, the overall UAE nesting population is estimated at 60,000 to 70,000 pairs, nearly half of the global breeding population. Further augmentation of the current breeding numbers is possible if breeding colonies remain safe from human disturbance and invasive predators. For long-term conservation of Socotra Cormorant, protection of all remaining colony sites, including inactive ones, is important in addition to minimising disturbance along with widespread public awareness to change the people’s perception of the species as a competitor to commercial fisheries.
... While a regionally focused risk assessment enabled identification of transboundary risks to aid decision-making at these scales, it also highlighted difficulties for when risks were not as relevant to all sub-regions. For instance, particular species such as dugongs and Socotra cormorant were not present in all sub-regions but have international significance (Muzaffar et al., 2017;Abdulrazzak and Pauly, 2017). Balancing prioritisation of risks between regional versus global importance, or between sub-regional and regional risks, has no easy solution and depends often on value judgement and priorities. ...
... While a regionally focused risk assessment enabled identification of transboundary risks to aid decision-making at these scales, it also highlighted difficulties for when risks were not as relevant to all sub-regions. For instance, particular species such as dugongs and Socotra cormorant were not present in all sub-regions but have international significance (Muzaffar et al., 2017;Abdulrazzak and Pauly, 2017). Balancing prioritisation of risks between regional versus global importance, or between sub-regional and regional risks, has no easy solution and depends often on value judgement and priorities. ...
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The subtropical ROPME Sea Area (RSA), comprising the Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the northern Arabian Sea, is a heavily exploited sea region that experiences extreme environmental conditions, and for which climate change is expected to further impact marine ecosystems and coastal communities, sectors and industries. Climate change risk assessments provide a valuable tool to inform decision-making and adaptation planning through identifying and prioritising climate risks and/or opportunities. Using the first UK Climate Change Risk Assessment as an example, a marine climate change risk assessment was undertaken for the marine and coastal environment of the RSA for the first time. Through an extensive literature review and a workshop involving regional experts, marine and coastal climate change risks were identified, scored and prioritised. A total of 45 risks were identified, which spanned two key themes: ‘Risks to Biodiversity’ and ‘Risks to Economy and Society’. Of these, 13 were categorised as ‘severe’, including degradation of coral reefs and their associated ecological assemblages, shifts in the distribution of wild-capture fisheries resources, changes to phytoplankton primary productivity, impacts on coastal communities, threats to infrastructure and industries, and impacts on operations and safety in maritime transport. The diversity of risks identified and their transboundary nature highlight that climate change adaptation responses will require coordinated action and cooperation at multiple scales across the RSA. This risk assessment provides a crucial baseline for a largely overlooked geographic area, that can be used to underpin future decision-making and adaptation planning on climate change, and serve as a ‘blueprint’ for similar assessments for other regional shared seas.
... The breeding population in the Arabian Gulf totals to about Insects 2021, 12, 615 3 of 11 97,150-123,150 breeding pairs nesting on 14-17 islands along the southern Arabian Gulf, with a large population occurring within the United Arab Emirates [21]. This study was conducted at Siniya island off the coast of Umm Al Quwain, UAE, which has a breeding population of 26,000-41,000 pairs of Socotra cormorants [22][23][24]. The habitat consists of desert shrubs (Haloxylon) scattered in patches across the island with sandy and open gravel plains. ...
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Seabirds and some inland waterbirds nest in densely aggregated colonies. Nesting activities for a duration of months could lead to large quantities of guano deposition that affects the soil chemistry, flora and fauna. We assessed the effects of nesting Socotra Cormorants on soil invertebrates on Siniya Island, United Arab Emirates. Artificial substrate traps were set in nesting and non-nesting areas to sample invertebrates both before and after nesting had occurred. Diversity of soil invertebrate taxa decreased significantly in nesting areas compared to non-nesting areas after the commencement of nesting. This indicated that nesting activities had a negative effect on diversity. Among selected taxa, isopods and spiders decreased significantly in response to nesting activities. In contrast, ants were likely affected by habitat while beetles did not change significantly in response to nesting activities, suggesting that their numbers probably fluctuated in relation to seasonality. Ticks increased significantly but only in non-nesting areas. Thus, the impact of nesting varied between taxa depending on life history and seasonality. Our observations reflect the dynamic nature of invertebrate abundance that is affected by seasonality and the hyper-abundance of nesting seabirds.
... The seagrass meadows in Bahrain support some vulnerable and endangered species such as dugongs and green turtles (Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, Supreme Council for Environment, 2017). Moreover, Bahrain has two sites registered under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Supreme Council for Environment, 2015), one of which, 'Hawar Islands' hosts one of the largest breeding colonies of Socotra Cormorant in the world (Muzaffar et al., 2017). Additionally, Bahrain was historically known for its productive oyster beds and prospered pearl industry. ...
Article
Bahrain is a member of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that share common challenges such as vulnerability to climate change and fragile environments. It is also a member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) which is a group of six countries located along the Arabian Gulf, an arid and extremely stressed environment. During the last four decades, Bahrain's marine environment witnessed unprecedented pressures due to human activities including sand dredging, coastal development, effluent discharges, and seawater desalination, which have led to negative impacts including degradation of Marine Environmental Quality (MEQ). This study used document analysis as the primary data collection tool and followed a criteria-based evaluation approach to examine the development of MEQ management in Bahrain and to highlight opportunities for improvement. The study revealed that Bahrain's MEQ management has developed in different aspects including marine spatial planning, assessment and control of marine pollution, and MEQ monitoring. However, the current MEQ management framework suffers from incoherence and major shortcomings such as the absence of an overarching marine spatial plan and the lack of specific MEQ objectives and thresholds. Bahrain had benefited significantly from building partnerships with regional and international environmental organizations in the past and has great opportunities to build new regional and global partnerships in order to improve its marine management. Developing an ecosystem-based marine spatial plan should be prioritized as it can serve as the basis of marine environmental management and helps the country to achieve its sustainable development goals.
... Perhaps one of the most advantageous features of UAVs for seabird biologists is that they can fly over remote colonies or locations of difficult access where birds breed (Ratcliffe et al., 2015;Brisson-Curadeu et al., 2017). These new findings help scientists and conservation managers to gain improved knowledge of the population size, distribution patterns and habitat use of seabirds (Muzaffar et al., 2017). Although most of the literature on UAV use for seabird research has focused on methods of improving the accuracy of bird counts (Chilvers et al., 2015;Goebel et al., 2015;Hodgson et al., 2018;Albores-Barajas et al., 2018) only a few studies have evaluated their impacts on bird behavior (Chabot, Craik & Bird, 2015;Rümmler et al., 2016;Borrelle & Fletcher, 2017;Barnas et al., 2018;Bevan et al., 2018). ...
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Background: Drones are reliable tools for estimating colonial seabird numbers. Although most research has focused on methods of improving the accuracy of bird counts, few studies have evaluated the impacts of these methods on bird behavior. In this study, we examined the effects of the DJI Phantom 3 drone approach (altitude, horizontal and vertical descent speeds) on changes in the intensity of behavioral response of guano birds: guanay cormorants (Phalacrocorax bougainvilli), Peruvian boobies (Sula variegata) and Peruvian pelicans (Pelecanus thagus). The breeding and non-breeding condition was also evaluated. Methods: Eleven locations along the Peruvian coast were visited in 2016-2017. Drone flight tests considered an altitude range from 5 to 80 m from the colony level, a horizontal speed range from 0.5 to 15 m/s, and a vertical descent speed range from 0.5 to 3 m/s. The intensity of the behavioral response of birds was scored and categorized as: 0-no reacting, 1-head pointing to the drone (HP), 2-wing flapping (WF), 3-walking/running (WR) and 4-taking-off/flying (TK). Drone noise at specific altitudes was recorded with a sound meter close to the colony to discriminate visual from auditory effects of the drone. Results: In 74% of all test flights (N = 507), guano birds did not react to the presence of the drone, whereas in the remaining flights, birds showed a sign of discomfort: HP (47.7%, N = 130), WF (18.5%), WR (16.9%) and TK (16.9%). For the drone approach tests, only flight altitude had a significant effect in the intensity of the behavioral response of guano birds (intensity behavioral response <2). No birds reacted at drone altitudes above 50 m from the colony. Birds, for all species either in breeding or non-breeding condition, reacted more often at altitudes of 5 and 10 m. Chick-rearing cormorants and pelicans were less sensitive than their non-breeding counterparts in the range of 5-30 m of drone altitude, but boobies reacted similarly irrespective of their condition. At 5 m above the colony, cormorants were more sensitive to the drone presence than the other two species. Horizontal and vertical flights at different speeds had negligible effects (intensity behavioral response <1). At 2 m above the ground, the noise of the cormorant colony was in average 71.34 ± 4.05 dB (N = 420). No significant differences were observed in the drone noise at different flight altitudes because the background noise of the colony was as loud as the drone. Conclusions: It is feasible to use the drone DJI Phantom 3 for surveys on the guano islands of Peru. We recommend performing drone flights at altitudes greater than 50 m from guano bird colonies and to select take-off spots far from gulls. Likewise, this study provides a first step to develop guidelines and protocols of drone use for other potential activities on the Peruvian guano islands and headlands such as surveys of other seabirds and pinnipeds, filming and surveillance.
... At least 7 colonies have already been abandoned due to oil exploitation activities (BirdLife International 2017). In the Gulf of Salwa, west of Qatar, 4 colonies (3 colonies in Saudi Arabia, with collectively about 27 000 pairs and 1 colony in Bahrain with about 30 000 to 40 000 pairs) constitute possibly the largest concentration of the species in the world (Jennings 2010, BirdLife International 2017, although see Muzaffar et al. 2017). East of Qatar, most of the 9 colonies of the UAE are small, hosting a few thousand pairs, with the exception of one large colony, Siniya Island, that hosts 28 000 to 41 000 pairs breeding between the months of August and January (Muzaffar et al. 2012. ...
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Conservation of threatened seabirds commonly focuses on protection of breeding areas. However, conditions at non-breeding areas also affect population dynamics, calling for a better understanding of seabird migratory ecology. In particular, it is crucial to identify the type of migration and the oceanic conditions determining non-breeding habitat selection. We studied movements of the threatened Socotra cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis breeding at Siniya Island, United Arab Emirates (UAE) (35% of the world population), using platform transmitter terminals (PTTs) deployed on adults during the 2013 and 2014 breeding seasons. Concomitantly, we used remotely-sensed chlorophyll a concentration data (CHL) of areas visited by birds in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman regions (2002 to 2016 monthly averages), as an index of primary productivity. The migratory pattern of the Socotra cormorant was non-dispersive, fitting with the gregarious habits and group foraging mode of this forage fish specialist. Birds performed a short westward directional migration to islands off western UAE, then moved eastwards to the Strait of Hormuz before returning to Siniya Island. Birds concentrated at a few localities, which therefore represent areas of high conservation priority. During breeding, CHL around the colony was high. During non-breeding, however, CHL around non-breeding areas was low, even though more productive waters were present within foraging range. The mismatch between the non-breeding phase and CHL could be linked to spatial and temporal lags in responses of secondary and tertiary consumers to primary productivity. Effective conservation will necessitate a better understanding of the ecology and distribution of forage fish within the Gulf.
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In 2018, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, Qatar removed 90 t of marine litter (ML) from the Ras Rakan Island (RRI), a remote uninhabited island in the Arabian Gulf (hereinafter referred to as Gulf). To identify the sources of ML and understand the post-cleaning ML accumulation rate, a ML survey was conducted around RRI in 2019. A total of 1341 ML items were found around RRI with an average abundance of 3.4 items/m2. In addition, a machine learning approach was applied to extract the quantity and types of ML from 10,400 images from the sampling sites (beaches) to make the ML clean-up process and monitoring effort more efficient. The image coordinates of ML objects were used to train an object detection algorithm ‘You Only Look Once (YOLO-v5)’ to automatically detect ML from video data. An image enhancement technique was performed to improve the quality of unclear images. The best performing YOLO-v5 model had 90% of mean Average Precision (mAP) while maintaining near real-time processing speeds at 2 ms/image. The abundance of ML around RRI was higher than that found on the coast of mainland Qatar. 61.5% of the sampling locations are considered as ‘extremely dirty’ based on Clean Coast Index. Windward beaches had higher ML concentrations (derived from neighbouring countries) than the leeward beaches. Like RRI, most of the uninhabited islands in the Arabian Gulf are home to many seabirds and sea turtles, and could act as major sinks for ML deposition. Therefore, implementation of this machine learning technique to all islands allows estimating and mitigating the load of ML for achieving a sustaining and a cleaner ocean.
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In the Arabian Gulf, mangroves play a particularly important role in maintaining biodiversity. Water and intertidal sediments were collected from eight sampling locations in April 2017 to assess the environmental status of the mangrove forest in the Khor al Beida, Umm Al Quwain, which is one of the largest natural mangrove forests in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Khor al Beida is also a breeding ground for the largest Gulf colony of a regionally endemic Socotra cormorant. Total metal concentrations of water and sediments were measured using Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and ranged between 0.001–2.873 mg/L and 0.08–12683.02 mg/kg, respectively. Most metals were within permissible levels, except for copper, iron, aluminum, zinc, and nickel. Hazard Quotient calculations showed low risk to the ecosystem in relation to the presence of heavy metals, with the exception of zinc. Fifty-three diatom species of pennate benthic forms were identified in the intertidal sediments. For the first time in the UAE, diatom composition and diatom diversity values were quantitatively estimated in the surface sediments and a short sediment core. Overall, the assessment suggests that the mangrove forest is currently undisturbed and shows very little anthropogenic impact; yet, protection and conservation efforts are necessary in order to maintain its current status.
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We review the conservation status of, and threats to, all 346 species of seabirds, based on BirdLife International’s data and assessments for the 2010 IUCN Red List. We show that overall, seabirds are more threatened than other comparable groups of birds and that their status has deteriorated faster over recent decades. The principal current threats at sea are posed by commercial fisheries (through competition and mortality on fishing gear) and pollution, whereas on land, alien invasive predators, habitat degradation and human disturbance are the main threats. Direct exploitation remains a problem for some species both at sea and ashore. The priority actions needed involve: a) formal and effective site protection, especially for Important Bird Area (IBA) breeding sites and for marine IBA feeding and aggregation sites, as part of national, regional and global networks of Marine Protected Areas; b) removal of invasive, especially predatory, alien species (a list of priority sites is provided), as part of habitat and species recovery initiatives; and c) reduction of bycatch to negligible levels, as part of comprehensive implementation of ecosystem approaches to fisheries. The main knowledge gaps and research priorities relate to the three topics above but new work is needed on impacts of aquaculture, energy generation operations and climate change (especially effects on the distribution of prey species and rise in sea level). We summarise the relevant national and international jurisdictional responsibilities, especially in relation to endemic and globally threatened species.
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This field guide covers the major resource groups likely to be encountered in the fisheries of Kuwait, Eastern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. It includes marine plants, shrimps, lobsters, crabs, bivalves, gastropods, cephalopods, sharks, batoid fishes, bony fishes, sea snakes, sea turtles, sea birds, and marine mammals. In order to serve as a tool for ecological and biodiversity studies, all species know from the Gulf of certain groups are included. These include the sharks, batoid fishes, bony fishes, sea turtles, and marine mammals. Each resource group is introduced by a general section on technical terms and measurements pertinent to that group and an illustrated guide to higher taxonomic groups when relevant. Species are then treated in a subsequent guide that includes scientific nomenclature, common English and Arabic names where available, size information, information on habitat, biology, and fisheries, diagnostic features, and one or more illustrations, some of which are included in colour. The guide is fully indexed and a list of references is appended.
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By analyzing 20+ years of data, we found that the nesting colonies of double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus (Lesson, 1831)) in the North Channel and Georgian Bay of Lake Huron exhibit density-dependent population regulation. This conclusion is based on four lines of evidence. First, a time series of nest counts at specific colonies (1979–2001) showed density-dependent growth based on randomization tests of the time series. Second, the per capita rate of change in colony size declined with increasing colony size over a 10-year period. Third, a Ricker model of aggregate nest counts showed that population growth of nesting double-crested cormorants stabilized in recent years (through 2003), with K, the carrying capacity parameter, being 11 445 nests in the North Channel and 10 815 nests in Georgian Bay. Fourth, a colony area index showed near complete coverage of coastal areas by adult nesters coinciding with overall declines in population growth. High rates of population increase of double-crested cormorants on Lake Huron have largely come to an end, but changes in fish abundance may result in changes in carrying capacity.
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1. The increasing population of cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis) in Europe since 1970 has led to conflicts with fishery interests. Control of cormorant populations is a management issue in many countries and a predictive population model is needed. However, reliable estimates of survival are lacking as input for such a model 2. Capture–recapture estimates of survival of dispersive species like cormorants suffer from an unknown bias due to permanent emigration from the study area. However, a combined analysis of resightings and recovery of dead birds allows unbiased estimates of survival and emigration. 3. We use data on 11 000 cormorants colour-ringed as chicks in the Danish colony Vorsø 1977–97 to estimate adult survival and colony fidelity. Recent statistical models allowing simultaneous use of recovery and resighting data are employed. We compensate for variation in colour-ring quality, and study the effect of population size and winter severity on survival, as well as of breeding success on fidelity by including these factors as covariates in statistical models. 4. Annual adult survival fluctuated from year to year (0·74–0·95), with a mean of 0·88. A combination of population size in Europe and winter temperatures explained 52–64% of the year-to-year variation in survival. Differences in survival between sexes was less than 1%. Cormorants older than ≈ 12 years experienced lower survival, whereas second-year birds had survival similar to adults. Colony fidelity declined after 1990 from nearly 1 to ≈ 0·90, implying 10% permanent emigration per year. This change coincided with a decline in food availability. 5. Apparently, survival was more severely affected by winter severity when population size was high. This could be caused by saturation of high-quality wintering habitat, forcing some birds to winter in less good habitat where they would be more vulnerable to cold winters. There was thus evidence for density dependence in adult survival, at least in cold winters. 6. The high population growth rate sustained by European Ph. c. sinensis in the 1970s and 1980s can partly be accounted for by unusually high survival of immature and adult birds, probably caused by absence of hunting, low population density and high food availability.
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The double-crested cormorant, found only in North America, is an iridescent black waterbird superbly adapted to catch fish. It belongs to a family of birds vilified since biblical times and persecuted around the world. Thus it was perhaps to be expected that the first European settlers in North America quickly deemed the double-crested cormorant a competitor for fishing stock and undertook a relentless drive to destroy the birds. This enormously important book explores the roots of human-cormorant conflicts, dispels myths about the birds, and offers the first comprehensive assessment of the policies that have been developed to manage the double-crested cormorant in the twenty-first century Conservation biologist Linda Wires provides a unique synthesis of the cultural, historical, scientific, and political elements of the cormorant's story. She discusses the amazing late-twentieth-century population recovery, aided by protection policies and environment conservation, but also the subsequent U.S. federal policies under which hundreds of thousands of the birds have been killed. In a critique of the science, management, and ethics underlying the double-crested cormorant's treatment today, Wires exposes "management" as a euphemism for persecution and shows that the current strategies of aggressive predator control are outdated and unsupported by science.
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The Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis is endemic to the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Based on data available in the literature and on personal observations in Saudi Arabia, the status, distribution and conservation requirements of the species are summarized. The total world population may still consist of 500,000 to 1 million birds. Nevertheless there are only a few important breeding colonies. Several breeding colonies have been lost in the most recent past due to industrial development and an increase in human activity on and around the breeding islands. These pressures are now threatening several of the surviving colonies. Urgent action has to be taken to give effective protection to this highly vulnerable species, A general plan to enhance the conservation status of this species and its breeding colonies is put forward.
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The book presents a structured procedure covering ecological and legal, economic, and social aspects of the wildlife conflicts. This book is about conflicts between different stakeholder groups triggered by protected species that compete with humans for natural resources. It presents key ecological features of typical conflict species and mitigation strategies including technical mitigation, policy instruments and the design of participatory decision strategies involving relevant stakeholders. The book provides not only case studies from various European countries, it also presents a framework for the development of biodiversity conflict reconciliation action plans that can be used globally.
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The Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigroogularis is a little studied, regional endemic seabird restricted to the Arabian Gulf region threatened by anthropogenic disturbance. The global population is estimated at 110,000 breeding pairs. The Siniya Island colony, the largest in the United Arab Emirates (∼ 15,500 breeding pairs), was studied during the 2011 breeding season to determine baseline reproductive parameters and the effect of exotic trees on reproductive performance. Mean nesting density was 0.92 nests/m2 and shaded areas had significantly higher density (1.05/m2) compared to unshaded areas (0.75/m2). Mean clutch size was 2.4 eggs/nest and did not differ between shaded and unshaded areas. Mean egg volume was significantly higher in shaded (49.56 cm3) compared to unshaded areas (48.5 cm3). Hatching success was significantly higher in shaded (65.1%) compared to unshaded areas (46.6%). Fledging success was 65.6% and did not differ between shaded and unshaded areas. Chicks crèched under trees soon after leaving their nests and this likely increased fledging success, regardless of whether chicks came from shaded or unshaded areas. Overall reproductive success was 1.7 chicks/nest. Higher egg volumes and hatching success under shaded areas suggest that plantations had a beneficial effect on the cormorants on Siniya Island and could be of conservation value. Further studies are required to determine what habitat features linked with these trees specifically aid in enhancing reproductive performance.
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Cannibalism has never been documented in any species of cormorant. While conducting a study on the Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) colony of Siniya Island, Umm Al Quwain, United Arab Emirates, several instances of heterocannibalism were observed and photographed during October-December 2011. Older fledgling chicks were observed consuming younger altricial chicks. Such behavior may be due to a period of forced starvation, caused by abandonment by the parents in the third creching stage. The frequency of observed events suggests that this behavior may be common in Socotra Cormorants and should be investigated to determine possible causes and effects on the conservation of the species.
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Cooper, J. 1987. Biology of the Bank Cormorant, Part 5: Clutch size, eggs and incubation. Ostrich 58: 1–8.The Bank Cormorant Phalacrocorax neglectus, a marine species endemic to southern Africa, produced a clutch of one to three eggs (mean clutch size 2,02; modal clutch size two). Clutch size did not vary through the breeding season or with replacement laying. Mean egg dimensions were 59,0 x 38,4 mm (50,4 g). Mean egg mass loss during incubation was 9,4%. Egg size decreased with order of laying, the third eggs of three-egg clutches being the smallest of all. Mean egg size increased and then decreased through the season. Eggs comprised 13,3% shell, 17,5% yolk and 69,3% albumen and had a mean energy content of 207 kJ. Both sexes incubated, by placing the eggs on their webbed feet. Eggs hatched asynchronously in the order they were laid. The mean laying interval (3,0 d) and hatching interval (2,7 d) did not differ significantly. Laying-hatching intervals averaged 29,6 d and decreased with order of laying, suggesting that full incubation did not commence with the laying of the first egg. Mean hatching period was 1,2 d. Replacement clutches were laid 79 ± 51 d after failed first clutches were laid and 52 ± 33 a after clutch failure. Temperatures averaged 33,4°C in freshly laid eggs and 27,7°C in nests. The unusually small clutch size is not related to the species producing relatively large eggs.
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In recent years, Cape Anchovy Engraulis capensis has been the most important food for four seabirds breeding in South Africa–African Penguin Spheniscus demersus, Cape Gannet Morus capensis, Cape Cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis and Swift Tern Sterna bergii. Between 1984 and 1992, biomass of spawning anchovy fluctuated between about 0.5 and 1.75 million tons. Abundance of anchovy was significantly related to numbers of chicks fledged by African Penguins, occurrence of anchovy in the diet of Cape Gannets and numbers of Cape Cormorants and Swift Terns that attempted to breed. Numbers of African Penguins and Cape Gannets that attempted breeding probably also were influenced by abundance of anchovy. African Penguins and Cape Cormorants abandoned nests when anchovy were scarce and deferred breeding until anchovy became more plentiful. Survival of immature African Penguins in a period of anchovy scarcity was enhanced by availability of South African Sardine Sardinops sagax as an alternative food. When anchovy abundance was low, Cape Gannets fed on sardine.
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The most important physical aspects of the Gulf with respect to effects of marine pollution are its semi-enclosed, shallow nature and its arid setting. The Gulf is principally a sedimentary basin whose substrate is mainly biogenic, with outcrops of older limestone, and with a few actively growing reefs. It is relatively shallow, so that almost all parts of it lie within the photic zone. Its enclosed nature means that it has a low rate of water exchange (up to 5 years), and large parts of it experience extremes of salinity and temperature which have considerable effect on the marine communities. Pelagic productivity is typical for waters of this latitude, though the high productivity values commonly attributed to the Gulf refer to benthic components rather than to the main water mass. It suffered complete drying out in the late Pleistocene, so that its present relatively low biotic diversity is perhaps due as much to its relatively short existence in Recent time as much as to the extremes of environmental conditions which it experiences.
Article
Bird mortality in fishing gear is a global conservation issue and it is recognised that bycatch in industrial longline and trawl fisheries threatens several seabird species. Little is known however about the effects of bycatch in small-scale gillnet fisheries on bird populations. Here we review 30 studies reporting bird bycatch in coastal gillnet fisheries in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea region in order to assess the magnitude of this problem and potential effects on bird populations. All species of diving birds that occur in the study region, including divers (loons), grebes, sea ducks, diving ducks, auks and cormorants, have been reported as dying in fishing nets. The cumulative bycatch estimate extracted from several localized studies providing such information, suggests that about 90,000 birds die in fishing nets annually, a number that is almost certainly a substantial underestimate. We conclude that it is likely that between 100,000 and 200,000 waterbirds are killed per year. Geographic and temporal patterns of bycatch generally matched species distribution and periods of presence. Also, bycatch rates varied depending on species’ foraging technique and were influenced by net parameters and fishing depth. To evaluate effects of additive mortality on bird populations, we applied the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) concept to three species with the most extensive bycatch information. Agreeing with PBR assumptions we conclude that bycatch is a matter of concern for at least two of the three assessed species. We suggest that bycatch research in Europe and beyond should aim at unification of principles for bycatch assessment, setting new standards for the monitoring of waterbird populations so that vital rates and mortality data are recorded, and implementing quantifiable criteria for evaluating effects of fisheries bycatch.
Biodiversity annual report 2014: status of key breeding birds in Abu Dhabi
Environment Agency Abu Dhabi. 2014. Biodiversity annual report 2014: status of key breeding birds in Abu Dhabi. Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Reef fish and fisheries in the Gulf. Pages 127-161 in Coral Reefs of the Gulf: Adaptation to Climatic Extremes
  • E Grandcourt
Grandcourt, E. 2012. Reef fish and fisheries in the Gulf. Pages 127-161 in Coral Reefs of the Gulf: Adaptation to Climatic Extremes (B. M. Riegl and S. J. Purkis, Eds.). Springer, London, U.K.
Breeding biology, life histories, and life history-environment interactions in seabirds
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Hamer, K. C., E. A. Schreiber and J. Burger. 2001. Breeding biology, life histories, and life history-environment interactions in seabirds. Pages 217-262 in Biology of Marine Birds (E. A. Schreiber and J. Burger, Eds.). CRC Press, Boca Roca, Florida.
The comprehensive guide to the wildflowers of the United Arab Emirates. Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency
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Jongbloed, M. V. D. 2003. The comprehensive guide to the wildflowers of the United Arab Emirates. Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The breeding birds of Hawar
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King, H. 1999. The breeding birds of Hawar. Arabian Printing & Publishing House, Manama, Bahrain. King, H. 2004. Communal behaviour of Socotra cormorant, Bahrain. Phoenix 20: 25-28.
Communal behaviour of Socotra cormorant
  • H King
King, H. 2004. Communal behaviour of Socotra cormorant, Bahrain. Phoenix 20: 25-28.
Population trend of the world's monitored seabirds
  • M Paleczny
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  • D Pauly
Paleczny, M., E. Hamill, V. Karpouzi and D. Pauly. 2015. Population trend of the world's monitored seabirds, 1950-2010. PLOS ONE: e0129342.
Economic development in the UAE. Pages 249-259 in United Arab Emirates: a New Perspective
  • M Shihab
Shihab, M. 2001. Economic development in the UAE. Pages 249-259 in United Arab Emirates: a New Perspective (I. Abed and P. Hellyer, Eds.). Trident Press Ltd., London, U.K.
Hawar Islands Protected Area (Kingdom of Bahrain) management plan
  • N J Pilcher
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  • I Al-Madany
  • H King
  • P Hellyer
  • M Beech
  • C Gillespie
  • S Wood
Pilcher, N. J., R. C. Phillips, S. Aspinall, I. Al-Madany, H. King, P. Hellyer, M. Beech, C. Gillespie, S. Wood, H. Schwarze and others. 2008. Hawar Islands Protected Area (Kingdom of Bahrain) management plan. Unpublished report, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, France.