Toward a global strategy for seabird tracking
Electronic tracking technologies revolutionized wildlife ecology, notably for studying the movements of elusive species such as seabirds. Those advances are key to seabird conservation, for example in guiding the design of marine protected areas for this highly threatened group. Tracking data are also boosting scientific understanding of marine ecosystem dynamics in the context of global change. To optimize future tracking efforts, we performed a global assessment of seabird tracking data. We identified and mined 689 seabird tracking studies, reporting on > 28,000 individuals of 216 species from 17 families over the last four decades. We found substantial knowledge gaps, reflecting a historical neglect of tropical seabird ecology, with biases toward species that are heavier, oceanic, and from high-latitude regions. Conservation status had little influence on seabird tracking propensity. We identified 54 threatened species for which we did not find published tracking records, and 19 with very little data. Additionally, much of the existing tracking data are not yet available to other researchers and decision-makers in online databases. We highlight priority species and regions for future tracking efforts. More broadly, we provide guidance toward an ethical, rational, and efficient global tracking program for seabirds, as a contribution to their conservation.