Krupp, F., Abuzinada, A.H. & Nader, I.A. (eds.), A Marine Wildlife Sanctuary for the Arabian Gulf. Environmental research and conservation following the 1991 Gulf War Oil Spill. NCWCD, Riyadh and Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt a.M.

Status of the breeding populations of terns (Sternidae) along the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia following the 1991 Gulf War

A b s t r a c t: During four successive summers following the 1991 Gulf War oil spill, the breeding activities of the tern populations on the coral islands off Saudi Arabia were monitored closely to assess the impact of the spill on these birds and to address their conservation needs. On average each summer, nearly 70,000 pairs of terns bred on these islands, representing approximately 65 % of all terns in the entire Saudi Arabian Gulf. In 1991 the breeding terns were relatively unaffected by the oil spills. However, in 1992 and 1993 there was a significant decline in the terns' breeding success due to a lower average clutch size and hatching success, a reduced chick growth rare and higher chick mortality, an increase in inter- and intraspecific piracy, and a lower nest attendance resulting in a significant increase in chick predation. All these factors indicated an acute shortage of food. Several studies suggested that a failure in fish stock recruitment had occurred in 1991 as a direct result of the impact of the oil spill on fish eggs and larvae. The high breeding success in 1994 indicated a significant increase in food abundance and also that there had been no long-term impact of the oil spill. The presence of oil-fouled adult terns on the colonies throughout the study period and the occurrence of a new oil spill on Karan in 1994 indicate that chronic oil pollution represents a continuous threat for the marine environment of the northern Gulf.


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