Salina Goto and reduced flamingo abundance since 2010: Ecological and ecotoxicological research

Slijkerman, D.M.E.; de Vries, P.; Kotterman, M.J.J.; Cuperus, J.; Kwadijk, C.J.A.F.; van Wijngaarden, R.


In 2010 a petrochemical fire took place at the BOPEC oil terminals on Bonaire. These facilities are located on the shores of the Goto lake, a legally protected RAMSAR wetland and important flamingo foraging area. Before the fire, daily flamingo counts averaged approximately 400 birds that used the area to feed on Artemia (brine shrimp) and Ephydra (brine fly larvae). Immediately after the fire, flamingo densities plummeted to nearly none and have not recovered. A large amount of fire retardants were used to combat the fire, and were hypothesised to be a potential cause for the flamingo declines. Our analyses of 15 years of baseline flamingo monitoring data show that rainfall does influence flamingo densities but only on the short-term and steering seasonal dynamics of flamingos. Therefore the rainfall event/change in the rainfall regime cannot account for lasting absence of flamingos. Nearby control lakes that were not affected by the fire showed no lasting reduction in flamingo densities, but instead an increase due to the birds no longer feeding in Goto.