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In 1992, the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS) began incinerating U.S. chemical weapons stockpiles on Johnston Atoll (Pacific Ocean) where about 500,000 seabirds breed, including Red-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon rubricauda). We hypothesized that survival rates of birds were lower in those nesting downwind of the incinerator smokestack compared to those upwind, and that birds might move away from the area. From 1992 - 2000 we monitored survival and movements between areas upwind and downwind from the JACADS facility. We used a multi-strata mark recapture approach to model survival, probability of recapture and movement. Probability of recapture was significantly higher for birds in downwind areas (owing to greater recapture effort) and thus was an important 'nuisance' parameter to take into account in modeling. We found no differences in survival between birds nesting upwind ( 0.8588) and downwind (0.8550). There was no consistent difference in movement rates between upwind or downwind areas from year to year: differences found may be attributed to differing vegetation growth and human activities between the areas. Our results suggest that JACADS has had no documentable influence on the survival and year to year movement of Red-tailed Tropicbirds.
Additional Publication Details
The effect of chemical weapons incineration on the survival rates of Red-tailed Tropicbirds