Since 2003, WCS has partnered with BP Exploration Alaska, Inc. in a long-term study monitoring breeding birds, predators, and other biotic factors within the Prudhoe Bay oilfield.
WCS has co-led (with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) a collaborative effort to understand how oil development affects the nest productivity of tundra-nesting birds at sites both near and far from oil development facilities in Arctic Alaska. Previous research and anecdotal evidence had indicated that nest predator species including arctic fox, glaucous gulls, and common ravens had increased in abundance in human-impacted areas because of the availability of edible garbage and nesting and denning structures associated with development. We tested whether nest survival (the ability of adult birds to successfully raise young) was lower near development than in areas distant from such development.
Nest predation is typically the most important limiting factor in the reproductive success of nesting birds. Despite the recognized importance of nest predation in Arctic Alaska there is a lack of information confirming the identity of nest predators; in particular, which species are the most prevalent predators. No studies in Arctic Alaska have attempted to conclusively identify nest predators at remote sites well away from human infrastructure. Although the suite of nest predators is likely similar between human-disturbed and remote sites, because of the known attraction of certain predators to human-impacted areas, the relative importance of certain predators may be quite different. In 2010, WCS, with support from the BLM and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, expanded their camera monitoring of active bird nests in the Prudhoe Bay oilfield and at the remote Ikpikpuk site.
Research and monitoring in the Prudhoe Bay Oilfield allows WCS to continue to better understand potential impacts to nesting birds from industry (by comparing these results to other sites on the North Slope where comparable data is collected) and in assessing the influence of climate change by examining long-term trends. WCS conservationists are working in this area to:
- Determine if there is an impact on nesting birds from nest predators associated with human infrastructure;
- Use the results to provide recommendations on how to limit impacts to Arctic nesting birds near infrastructure
- Identify the specific predators at active shorebird and passerine nests through the use of remote camera systems, and assess the importance of nest predator species;
- Compare these findings with preexisting information in the literature in order to provide regional context on how the nest predator communities differ between developed (e.g. Prudhoe Bay) and remote sites in Arctic Alaska;
- Provide detailed information and recommendations to relevant land managers so that effective management and wildlife conservation decisions can be made.
Prudhoe Bay Long-Term Monitoring of Breeding Birds
WCS has monitored breeding birds in the Prudhoe Bay oilfields annually since 2003 as part of a long-term effort. Click here to download most recent annual report.
Identifying Nest Predators with Remote Camera Systems
From 2002-08 WCS identified predators in the oilfields using a small number of cameras placed at shorebird and songbird nests (click here for publication reporting findings). In 2010, we expanded this effort at Prudhoe bay and, for the first time, at a remote site. Check out the recent Prudhoe Bay report and Ikpikpuk River report for preliminary findings.