Climate change is listed as the third greatest threat to seabirds globally (Croxall et al. 2012). It is predicted to decrease the land area of low-lying Pacific islands and cause complete inundation of some islands (IPCC 1997) leading to substantial population declines (Hatfield et al. 2012). Although no current data or predictions are available specific to this IBA climate change represents a potential threat to this site owing to the risk of future sea level rise leading to inundation, and increased frequency of storms.
Invasive Alien Species represent the greatest threat to seabirds globally (Croxall et al. 2012), causing adult mortality and reduced productivity owing to egg and chick predation. Polynesian Rat is ubiquitous throughout the Pacific (IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group 2012) and is known to be present (www.issg.org/database/species/search.asp?st=sss&sn=&rn=Atafu%20Is.&ri=19135&hci=-1&ei=-1&fr=1&lang=EN&sts=sss). Polynesian Rat has been recorded predating adult seabirds as well as eggs and chicks (Kepler 1967). They have precipitated island extinctions in small-bodied, ground-nesting seabirds, but their impacts on larger or arboreal nesting seabirds appear to be lower (Atkinson 1985, Jones et al. 2008). Black Rat, Brown Rat, Feral Cat, Feral Pig and Feral Goat are all plausible but unconfirmed residents. Each can potentially cause declines in seabird colonies, and ungulates can exacerbate the threat from other invasive mammals through habitat modification (Atkinson 1985, Rodríguez et al. 2006, Jones et al. 2008, Duffy 2010). Overall, invasive mammals are known to be present and are likely to be having a limiting effect on seabirds, or causing population declines.
Human disturbance and direct harvesting of seabirds are listed as threats to 26 and 23 of the 97 globally threatened seabirds respectively (Croxall et al. 2012). For Near Threatened and Least Concern species it is likely that human disturbance and consumption affect an even greater proportion, particularly of tropical species, for which major reductions in populations and/or breeding sites are increasingly indicated but seldom quantified, especially across the whole range of the many wide-ranging tropical seabird species (Croxall et al. 2012). Human disturbance and direct harvesting may occur at this site. The sustainability of such harvests is unknown but it may represent a threat to this population.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Atafu. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 25/04/2019.