Evaluating telemetry of marine top predators as a tool for the assessment of the marine ecosystems (MONTRACK)



Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)

Project term:

October 2017 to March 2021


Verena Peschko, Dr. Nele Markones, Prof. Dr. Stefan Garthe

Project partners:

Dr. Volker Dierschke (GaviaEcoResearch)


Seabirds and marine mammals are top predators in marine food webs. As such, they are excellent indicators for the state of the ecosystem. In the context of growing anthropogenic pressures on the marine environment, monitoring of the state of their populations and of key ecological parameters is highly relevant to address conservation needs on the national and international level.

Telemetric methods (uhf radio, satellite- or GPS telemetry, geolocators) can generate data on the spatial movements of animals. It is possible to investigate habitat use, activity patterns, and behaviour of specific individuals over the stretch of several weeks or months with high spatial resolution. These results facilitate the identification of size and role of core areas for different species, as well as the assessment of connectivity between these areas. Habitat use depends on the state of the ecosystem, so long-term data on movement patterns can reveal shifts in the marine environment and point to the relevant ecological processes that drive these changes. This is prerequisite for the development of scientifically sound management measures for species and habitats. Telemetric data are an ideal supplement to existing monitoring schemes (project TopMarine) and can generate information on a whole new set of relevant parameters.

The aim of MONTRACK is to test the suitability of seabird and marine mammal telemetry as a monitoring tool for the assessment of the state of the marine ecosystem. Northern Gannets, Black-legged Kittiwakes, sea ducks and Grey Seals serve as model organisms and are investigated with different telemetric methods.

In addition, the breeding success of selected indicator species in the only German offshore seabird colony on the island Helgoland is monitored in fulfilment of the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) of the European Union and the regional convention for marine conservation OSPAR. The combination of telemetric data and data on breeding success facilitates a holistic assessment of population status and habitat quality.



Reports on breeding success on Helgoland:

Report for 2018 (in German with English summary)

Report for 2017 (in German)

Report for 2016 (in German)

Report for 2015 (in German)