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SHOREBIRDS  May 2007

SHOREBIRDS May 2007

Subject:

Red Knot - Extinction Question

From:

Jean Iron <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Jean Iron <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 29 May 2007 11:00:50 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (63 lines)

Richard Heil of S. Peabody, MA asked on 25 May 2007, "I'm wondering
if Baker et al. (2004) have backed off their silly extinction by 2010
claim for rufa Red Knot yet? NJ Audubon certainly is still using it
in their campaign to halt Horseshoe Crab harvesting in Delaware Bay."
We asked one of the authors, Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario Museum,
to comment. Mark is part of an international team studying Red Knots
on the breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic, at staging areas such
as New Jersey, and on the wintering grounds in Florida and South
America. See Mark Peck's response below.

Ron Pittaway and Jean Iron
Ontario Field Ornithologists
Minden and Toronto ON
Email: [log in to unmask]

Mark emailed us today - 29 May 2007, "Just got back early Saturday
morning from New Jersey. Red Knot numbers were low in New Jersey but
were pretty good in Delaware. They are still no where close to what
they were in the 1980s. As for our paper (Baker et al. 2004), the
results were based on models using historical data and recent noted
declines in Red Knots, specifically 1998-2001. The models/paper
indicated the "population is predicted to approach extremely low
numbers by 2010 when the probability of extinction will be
correspondingly higher than it is today. It never said they will be
extinct. As we all know models depend on the information they are
given and are by no means guaranteed. Numbers in the last year seem
to have leveled off somewhat and I agree that it is unlikely the rufa
population will be gone by 2010. This does not mean that we should
not be concerned or we should consider the paper or the results
silly. The fact is Red Knots have gone through a tremendous decline
in the last 25 years. The decline is real and the problems are not
over. We are still not clear about all of the causes and to make
matters worse the horseshoe crab moratorium is near its end in New
Jersey and may not be reinstated.
        I agree that it is unlikely that Red Knots will be gone from the
eastern United States by 2010. However, I also believe the writer is
missing the point of the paper by failing to look at the big picture.
The paper points to a serious decline and very serious problems with
the rufa subspecies. If the model is wrong and the population hangs
on until 2015 or 2020 and we do nothing, we have still failed. Our
paper is published in a respected refereed journal and should be
considered a warning bell based on data. Those data may not be
perfect and people may be misinterpreting the results, but the fact
remains that humans and rufa Red Knots have a problem. By the way,
Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones are not doing well either."

Literature Cited: Baker, Allan J., Patricia M. Gonzalez, Theunis
Piersma, Lawrence J. Niles, Ines de Lima Serrano do Nascimento,
Phillip W. Atkinson, Nigel A. Clark, Clive D.T. Minton, Mark K. Peck,
and Geert Aarts. 2004. Rapid population declines in red knots:
fitness consequences of decreased refueling rates and late arrival in
Delaware Bay. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (B). 271: 875-882.

Cheers,

Mark Peck
Ornithology/Department of Natural History
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park
Toronto ON Canada M5S 2C6
Email: [log in to unmask]
Phone: 416-586-5523
Fax: 416-586 5553

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