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Linking climate variability, productivity and stress to demography in a long-lived seabird

TitleLinking climate variability, productivity and stress to demography in a long-lived seabird
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSatterthwaite, WH, Kitaysky, AS, Mangel, M
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series

We examined the reproductive ecology of black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla inseveral breeding colonies in the North Pacific to test if inter-annual changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Winter Ice Cover (ICI), or local sea-surface temperature (SST) predict changes in productivity (fledglings per nest) or nutritional stress (corticosterone). We explored the implications of the observed variation in productivity and stress for projected population dynamics basedon a previously demonstrated corticosterone&\#8722;survival relationship. Although productivity was highly variable (0 to 0.9 fledglings nest&\#8722;1), the relationships between productivity and environmental indices were weak, with local SST providing slightly more explanatory power than PDO or ICI, suggesting that local factors rather than large-scale climate variability may determine variation in productivity. The relationships between stress and environmental indices were stronger than the relationship between productivity and environment. The measured response of stress to environment showed opposite signs between the southern and northern colonies, and typically implied annual mortality rates varying from 11 to 17%. The observed relationships between climate and stress indicate that anticipated warming might bring at least short-term demographic benefits for kittiwakes in the Bering shelf region, while having negative impacts on birds breeding in the Gulf of Alaska and western Aleutians. We predict decline (without immigration) for colonies with the lowest productivity and conclude that climate variability is likely to affect survival of North Pacific kittiwakes on a region-specific basis. Longevity of these birds maynot always be sufficient to buffer their populations from low reproductive performance.

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