The Desertas Islands (Madeira), Portugal, holds 90% of the breeding population of the rare Fea's petrel (Pterodroma feae) (173-258 specimens). The Natura 2000 site is classified as an SPA and also as a pSCI, due to its important biodiversity. It possesses a large number of birds listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, several of them breeding on the islands, and plants and mammals from the Annex II of the Habitats Directive. The main threats to the species are the disturbance and destruction of nests caused by rabbits; habitat degradation due to the introduction of vertebrates; concentration of at least 90% of the breeding population in a single limited area (<20 000 sq metre); lack of knowledge of the existence of important feeding and dispersion areas for the species and of the direct and indirect impact of human activities; and predation by small mammals and other birds.
The project?s long-term aim was to conserve a sustainable population of the targeted seabird and its breeding habitat, where many important species listed in the Habitats Directive Annex II can be found. Actions would include optimising conditions for the recovery of the breeding habitat, promoting the bird?s expansion into new areas with available breeding habitat on the islands of Bugio and on Deserta Grande; identifying the important areas at sea during its life cycle; and encouraging public support for the conservation of the species and its habitat.
The project concluded successfully with all the planned actions achieving their objectives.
Important management tools, such as a Management Plan for the Desertas and an Action Plan for the target species, were developed. Importantly, the project works allowed the definition of a new taxonomic status for the Desertas species (now named Bugio?s petrel), which is now recognised as an endemic species of the Desertas.
The information collected on the species? reproduction and ecology should prove extremely valuable for its future management. Although the tasks concerning the expansion of the species to other geographical locations were abandoned (due to the establishment of a population of the target species with a number of individuals lower than initially expected), the species response to the improvement of the breeding conditions was ?very positive? signalling high hopes, according to the beneficiary, for the future recovery of the species.
Equally successful were the results obtained for the recovery of the habitat, after the implementation of the tasks tackling the control of the erosion and of the mice and rabbits, present on the islands.
The following key preparatory actions were undertaken:
Other notable non-recurring management actions included:
Finally, the project?s awareness and dissemination campaigns attracted a very high number of participants and have helped to increase the knowledge about the species among the local people. Among these actions, over 2 000 local people (students, teachers and tourist agents etc) took part in more than 140 visits organised by the project. A strong awareness-raising campaign in Madeira, as well as significant media coverage of the project in newspapers and with several regional TV and radio reports, have helped to improve knowledge about an important endemic seabird species that was little known locally, before the launch of the project.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).