By Dr Amy Adams, Coastal Birds Program Coordinator, Birdlife Australia
Terns are seabirds with a global distribution and are generally found along the coastline near the ocean and on islands. Terns depend on both the marine and coastal terrestrial environment, ‘fishing’ out at sea but roosting and nesting on nearby shores. They typically nest on islands, estuaries and wide beaches, and they prefer to nest in colonies which can contain thousands of nesting birds! The Fairy Tern is one of Australia’s smallest (20-24 cm) and most threatened seabird. Like all tern species, their diet consists almost entirely of fish which both adults and chicks eat whole, head first!
The beach-nesting lifestyle of terns leaves them extremely vulnerable during the breeding season to a range of threats including disturbance (largely human recreational beach activities including 4WDs and off leash dogs), predation by introduced mammalian species and native birds, weed encroachment, climate change, inappropriate water management and low prey availability. Threats cause either the direct destruction of eggs (e.g. trampled, eaten) or cause the adults to leave the nests resulting in eggs becoming unviable (too hot or too cold) or being predated or buried in the sand. Due to these threats, Fairy Terns are currently experiencing major population declines in south-eastern Australia. Large breeding colonies are becoming a rarity and many historical breeding sites are now vacant. Monitoring of Fairy Terns is critical for identifying threats and population trends which can guide conservation efforts to mitigate threats and enhance breeding success and survival. But we need your help! If you are out on the water or visiting beaches during summer and you spot a Fairy Tern, you can help save them by reporting your sightings to BirdLife Australia ([email protected]).
Click here for more information about terns and how you can help save the Fairy Terns: https://www.birdlife.org.au/documents/BNB-Fairy-Tern_flip_guide-2021.pdf
By Mel Barker, CEO, WPB Foundation
We’ve had another addition to the team since the last edition of Connector – Lucy Kyriacou has joined as our Project Science Officer. Lucy brings a wealth of scientific experience, having worked for NGOs in England and as a primary school sustainability specialist locally in the Biosphere Reserve. Katerina Palthe, our intern, finished her internship just before Christmas. Kat has been an incredible asset to the team, and we are very excited for her as she has been offered a job which will build upon her experience with us.
The Foundation team made a number of excellent presentations at the recent Bass Coast Sustainability Festival. We were very grateful for the assistance of Amy O’Brien (an intern based in Canberra), Katerina and Dr Elia Pirtle from the Victorian Volcanic Plain Biosphere Inc. The Volcanic Plains team are keen to join the Western Port Biosphere Reserve in the global network of reserves designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). This global network has recently expanded with the inclusion of 20 new biosphere reserves and now covers more than 5% of the Earth’s landmass with 727 reserves in 131 countries. Every 10 years each reserve has to go through a review process with UNESCO. The Western Port Biosphere Reserve was originally designated in 2002, so we are now in our 20th year and will be undertaking our second review this year.
We were delighted to formalise our ongoing partnership with the five local Councils in the Biosphere Reserve through a new 4-year Memorandum of Understanding. The Shires and Cities signed to the agreement include Bass Coast, Cardinia, Casey, Frankston and Mornington Peninsula – and further background can be found in our press release. This partnership enables us to work across all the Councils at a regional scale and support each other’s programs. In this edition of Connector you can read about the launch of Cardinia’s new website What’s on Cardinia. It was great to see the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council’s Climate Emergency Plan being recognised nationally in a recent awards ceremony.
The Foundation team will be at World Wetlands Day at Boneo Park on Sunday 30 January. The programme of the day is included in this Connector and I hope to see you there!
Jo McCoy, WPB Foundation Chair
Welcome to the Summer 2022 Connector newsletter. It’s now more than six weeks since our virtual AGM. In that time we have moved from the cautious optimism of a ‘COVID normal’ summer to having to adjust to the Omicron variant and all that it entails. Enough said – but we will aim to retain our optimistic outlook. Thank you to all the members and guests who logged on to the AGM. It was great to see so many people participating and demonstrates the value of a keynote speaker who can attract an audience from far and wide. I suspect we will look at a hybrid model in future to enable participation from outside our normal catchment. For anyone interested in Blue Carbon who has not yet had an opportunity to view Professor Peter Macreadie’s fascinating and informative presentation, please visit our website. I take the opportunity here, as I did on the night, to thank the Foundation’s directors, staff and volunteers for their willingness to keep on persevering and achieving throughout another challenging year. You can read the 2020-21 Annual Report and Financial Report on our website.
Many of you I’m sure will be thinking about how your voting choices in the upcoming Federal Election will impact you and your family’s lives in the decades to come. It seems that politicians of all stripes are finally aware that their policies need to look beyond the next election cycle and that the issues of climate change and long-term sustainability are important to the mainstream.
While the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) is behind us, the focus on ambitious targets is unlikely to recede. The media generated by COP 26 means that the Convention on Biological Diversity COP 15, rescheduled for next May, may also get some airtime. For an informative summary on how climate and biodiversity are inextricably linked and the difficulties associated with the promotion of nature based solutions (NbS), please refer to the recent blog on the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s website.
Returning to issues closer to home, and then looping back to the UN and the Sustainable Development theme, I was very pleased to see the recent release of the State of the Marine and Coastal Environment 2021 Report from the Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Dr Gillian Sparkes AM. The Report, which can be accessed via an interactive website contains several case studies including some that are specifically relevant to the waters within the Biosphere. It supports the United Nations Decade of
Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
As we move into 2022, directors will be focused on revitalising our Strategic Plan, revisiting our values and working hard to ensure that the Foundation’s direction is clear and governance processes are continually enhanced. Our staff, led by CEO Mel Barker will be forging ahead with various exciting initiatives about which you’ll be able to read in coming issues of Connector.
Please write to me at [email protected] if you have any comments or suggestions for future issues or updates that you would like to see included on the website and/or addressed in future editions of Connector.
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Photography credits: J Harrison (eastern curlew).
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