MEPS 350:137-143 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07126

Regional and annual variation in black-legged kittiwake breeding productivity is related to sea surface temperature

Morten Frederiksen1,4,*, Martin Edwards2, Roderick A. Mavor3, Sarah Wanless1

1Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Hill of Brathens, Banchory AB31 4BW, UK
2Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
3Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Dunnet House, 7 Thistle Place, Aberdeen AB10 1UZ, UK
4Present address: National Environmental Research Institute, Dept. of Arctic Environment, University of Aarhus, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark

ABSTRACT: Spatiotemporal variation in seabird demographic parameters is often pronounced and may be an important source of information on the state of marine ecosystems. Black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla in Britain and Ireland show strong regional structure in breeding productivity, and both temporal and spatial variation are probably related to abundance of the principal prey of breeding kittiwakes, the lesser sandeel Ammodytes marinus. Annual regional estimates of sandeel abundance do not exist, prohibiting direct tests of this hypothesis. We examined relationships between kittiwake breeding productivity and 2 potential proxies of sandeel abundance, winter sea surface temperature (SST) and abundance of Calanus copepods, within and among 6 regions in Britain and Ireland from 1986 to 2004. Means and trends in winter SST differed among regions, with higher means and less pronounced increasing trends in western (Atlantic) regions than in eastern (North Sea) regions. A negative relationship between breeding productivity and winter SST in the previous year was found within 2 regions (East Scotland and Orkney), as well as in a cross-regional analysis. Results were inconclusive for Calanus abundance, with a positive relationship in East Scotland and negative in Orkney. These results demonstrate that although a single environmental driver (SST) is related to both within- and between-region variation in a key demographic parameter, regional heterogeneity in SST trends as well as the importance of other factors may lead to highly variable responses. Understanding this heterogeneity is critical for predicting long-term effects of climate change or other anthropogenic drivers on marine ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Kittiwakes · Spatial population dynamics · Ocean climate · Seabirds · Sandeels · Rissa tridactyla · Ammodytes marinus

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Cite this article as: Frederiksen M, Edwards M, Mavor RA, Wanless S (2007) Regional and annual variation in black-legged kittiwake breeding productivity is related to sea surface temperature. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 350:137-143

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