Predicting the future is a tricky business. As then United States Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld famously said “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know” . Then there is the interactions between all the variables that determine the outcome of a particular event. However, few things work in isolation and species decline often results from the accumulation of different stressors. If we want to put in place conservation management measures that are effective in the long term, then we need to be able to put our known (and measurable) stressors together and figure out what, cumulatively they mean for our potentially at risk species.
The shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) is an endemic to Australia, breeding on just three Tasmanian islands, including the aptly named Albatross Island. The albatross of Albatross Island have a long history of human interest. In the early 19th century adult albatross were extensively hunted for their feathers and egg, taking their numbers down from an estimated 11,100 pairs to just 400. The population is now recovering, but still faces a number of possible threats. High on this list are two issues – changing climatic conditions, and the accidental capture of the albatross in longline and trawl fisheries. To understand just what the combined impact of these stressors could mean for this vulnerable bird, Robin Thomson and colleagues from Tasmanian Government Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (DPIPWE) put together a model that can hopefully direct management to ensure these birds survive in the long term., together with the