Author/s: Nisbet I.C.T. 2000. .

Title: Disturbance, habituation, and management of waterbird colonies - Commentary

Journal: WATERBIRDS, 23(2): 312-332

Abstract: This Commentary presents a critique of studies of effects of human disturba nce on breeding colonial waterbirds, including a recent review by Carney an d Sydeman (1999). It challenges the mind-set that the effects of disturbanc e are always adverse, and the resulting management principle that disturban ce should be minimized. I argue that many studies do not withstand critical scientific scrutiny, and that published papers and reviews systematically overstate the adverse effects of human disturbance. I propose definitions o f the terms "disturbance", "habituation" and "tolerance", as well as classi fications of types of disturbance and types of effect. Contrary to prevaili ng opinions, there is little scientifically acceptable evidence that human disturbance causes substantial harm to terns (Sterna spp.), gulls (Larus sp p.) or herons (Ardeidae), although it is likely that sporadic incidents of harassment and vandalism are under-reported. Convincing evidence of adverse effects has been presented for several other species and groups of species ; most well-documented cases have been early in the nesting cycle and/or me diated by diurnal avian predators. Although there are no formal studies of habituation, many or most colonial waterbirds can become extremely tolerant of repeated human disturbance. I recommend that, where appropriate, waterb ird colonies should be managed for multiple uses (including research, educa tion, and recreation) by deliberately promoting habituation. Although many field biologists are careful to investigate the effects of their activities and are successful in minimizing them, others appear insufficiently aware of the potential for harm, so that there is a need for more complete guidel ines and better training.

Address: Nisbet I.C.T., ICT Nisbet & Co, 150 Alder Lane, N Falmouth, MA 02556 USA ICT Nisbet & Co 150 Alder Lane N Falmouth MA USA 02556 556 USA


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