Surveying Aves Island Wilderness Area

Highlights:
  • Is one of the major nesting sites in the Caribbean for the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) .This specie is listed as endangered by the IUCN and CITES.
  • The birds census of 2007 expedition, identified the largest colony of Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) recorded in the Caribbean.
  • Spatial analysis with historical and current data (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012 expeditions) found that the size and shape of the island has not changed since 1968.
  • Regularly small changes occur in the sandy coastline caused by waves. Due to hurricanes and storms, the island size can change dramatically. However, the rapid erosion and deposition return the island to its size and shape (in months) product of a dynamic equilibrium.
  • In 2009 expedition, with a Landsat satellite image, a submerged mountain top (30 m depth) was identified at 18 km south of Aves Island and was later surveyed by the Venezuela navy.
  • In the expedition of 2009, a shipwreck was found 200m east of the island. Two anchors and cannons of 10 were identified.
  • The 2012 expedition produced an orthophoto map (scale 1:1.000) of the island using Kite Aerial Photography.
  • The 2012 team build a web page on the island for the scientific community and the general public. It covers the themes of geography, biology, history, politics and extensive biographical reference
Description:

I have participated in four scientific expeditions (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012) to the island in order to map the island, determine changes and census the wildlife (turtles and birds). It is the most northern island of Venezuela, with approximately 550 m long and 150 m at its widest part (area is 3.6 ha). Its rises 4 m above the sea. Mostly sand, a small portion has some scrub vegetation (0.68 ha, about 20% of the island).
The island is a natural lab. From July to September the island is in second place in the Caribbean as a nesting area (after Tortuguero in Costa Rica) of the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). From January to April is a breeding place for seabirds (mostly Brown Noddy and Sooty Tern). All year round is a resting place for seabirds and bird migration. Tropical storms and hurricanes acts as a reset button for the life on the island.
If your interested to know more about the island, please visit the Web site build by me and the 2012 field team: www.isladeaves.org.ve

Logistic problems:

Because of its remoteness from the mainland coast of Venezuela (550 km), it requires the support of the Venezuela Navy and the Ministry of the Environment to get and to stay in their facilities on the island.

Results:

Sea turtles census (2006): tagging and measuring a total of 329 turtles in 39 days in the island.

Tagging and measuring a green turtle (Chelonia mydas) with my field mate (August - 2006)
Tagging and measuring a green turtle (Chelonia mydas) with my field mate
Green sea turtles nest and tracks (photo taken from a kite - KAP)
Green sea turtles nest and tracks (photo taken from a kite – KAP)
Green sea turtles
Green sea turtles

Bird census (2007): largest colony of Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) recorded in the Caribbean (2007).

Colony of Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus)
Colony of Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus)
Brown Noddy
Brown Noddy

Shipwreck identification (2009):
Cannons and anchors

Changes in the coastline (Spatial Analysis):
In every field trip the coast line had been survey, identifying the changing zones.

Changes in the coastline
Changes in the coastline
Example of Aves Island GIS

The image is an orthophoto map produced from a photo mosaic, from photos taken from a kite (KAP). The image is visually interpret to identify the shoreline, vegetation, geomorphology structural. Contours are generated by the model orthophoto. Move the cursor over the image to see the interpretation.

Aves survey result using KAP

Congress Presentation:
2013
2012
  • Lazo, R., García, J., De los Llanos, V. Utilización de Técnicas no Convencionales para el Levantamiento Cartográfico. Casos: Isla de Aves y Ciénaga de Ocumare. II Congreso Venezolano de Sistemas de Información Geográfica SIG (COVESIG), October 2012, Mérida, Venezuela.
  • Lazo, R., García, J., De los Llanos, V. Utilización de Técnicas no Convencionales para el Levantamiento de la Cartografía de Isla de Aves. I Congreso Venezolano de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación en el Marco de la LOCTI y del PEII, September 2012, Caracas, Venezuela.
  • Lazo, R., García, J., De los Llanos, V. Utilización de Técnicas no Convencionales para el Levantamiento de la Cartografía de Isla de Aves. IX Jornadas Técnicas de la Fundación Instituto de Ingeniería para Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnológico, September 2012, Caracas, Venezuela.
2007
  • Esclasans, D., Lazo, R., Papadakis, J. GIS Database for Census, Monitoring and Conservation Of Marine Birds in Offshore Islands of Venezuela. 16th Meeting of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB). July 2007, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Esclasans, D., Lazo, R., Papadakis, J. Base De Datos SIG para el Censo, Seguimiento y Conservación de Aves Marinas en las Islas de Venezuela. VIII Congreso de Ornitología Neotropical. May 2007, Maturín, Venezuela.
  • Vera, V., de Los Llanos, V., Lazo, R,. Is Aves Island Wildlife Refuge the Most Important Sea Turtle Courtship and Mating Area in the Caribbean?. 27th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. February 2007 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA.
Data Publication:
  • Aves Island Web page.2014
  • Bradley, P. (editor) and Norton, R. (editor). 2009. An Inventory of Breeding Seabirds of the Caribbean. University Press of Florida. 384p.
Awards:

Photographic Contest Art Photography in Science, Special Mention, 2007.

Field Teams

2006: Rodrigo Lazo and Verónica de los Llanos.
2007: Rodrigo Lazo.
2009: Rodrigo Lazo, Marco García, Daniel García and Pavel Alcocer.
2012: Rodrigo Lazo, Julián García and Verónica de los Llanos.

Acknowledgements:

Gratefully acknowledge the support of the Ministry of the Environment (Minamb), Navy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (ARBV), Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC) and 4M5DX Group.