CR 66:75-89 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01332

Effects of sea temperature and stratification changes on seabird breeding success

M. J. Carroll1,*, A. Butler2, E. Owen3, S. R. Ewing4, T. Cole4, J. A. Green5, L. M. Soanes5, J. P. Y. Arnould6, S. F. Newton7, J. Baer7,11, F. Daunt8, S. Wanless8, M. A. Newell8, G. S. Robertson9,12, R. A. Mavor10, M. Bolton1

1RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, UK
2Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, The King’s Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JZ, UK
3RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Etive House, Beechwood Park, Inverness IV2 3BW, UK
4RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Scotland Headquarters, 2 Lochside View, Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh EH12 9DH, UK
5School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Nicholson Building, Brownlow Street, Liverpool L69 3GP, UK
6School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia
7BirdWatch Ireland, 20D Bullford Business Campus, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow, Republic of Ireland
8Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0QB, UK
9Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
10Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Inverdee House, Baxter Street, Aberdeen AB11 9QA, UK
11Present address: BioConsult SH, Schobüller Str. 36, 25813 Husum, Germany
12Present address: Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Forest-in-Teesdale, Barnard Castle DL12 0HA, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As apex predators in marine ecosystems, seabirds may primarily experience climate change impacts indirectly, via changes to their food webs. Observed seabird population declines have been linked to climate-driven oceanographic and food web changes. However, relationships have often been derived from relatively few colonies and consider only sea surface temperature (SST), so important drivers, and spatial variation in drivers, could remain undetected. Further, explicit climate change projections have rarely been made, so longer-term risks remain unclear. Here, we use tracking data to estimate foraging areas for 11 black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla colonies in the UK and Ireland, thus reducing reliance on single colonies and allowing calculation of colony-specific oceanographic conditions. We use mixed models to consider how SST, the potential energy anomaly (indicating density stratification strength) and the timing of seasonal stratification influence kittiwake productivity. Across all colonies, higher breeding success was associated with weaker stratification before breeding and lower SSTs during the breeding season. Eight colonies with sufficient data were modelled individually: higher productivity was associated with later stratification at 3 colonies, weaker stratification at 2, and lower SSTs at one, whilst 2 colonies showed no significant relationships. Hence, key drivers of productivity varied among colonies. Climate change projections, made using fitted models, indicated that breeding success could decline by 21 to 43% between 1961-90 and 2070-99. Climate change therefore poses a longer-term threat to kittiwakes, but as this will be mediated via availability of key prey species, other marine apex predators could also face similar threats.


KEY WORDS: Black-legged kittiwake · Oceanography · Potential energy anomaly · Productivity · Rissa tridactyla · SST · Tracking data


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Cite this article as: Carroll MJ, Butler A, Owen E, Ewing SR and others (2015) Effects of sea temperature and stratification changes on seabird breeding success. Clim Res 66:75-89. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01332

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