MEPS 424:205-218 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08975

Reproductive success of planktivorous seabirds in the North Pacific is related to ocean climate on decadal scales

Alexander L. Bond1,*, Ian L. Jones1, William J. Sydeman2, Heather L. Major1,5, Shoshiro Minobe3, Jeffrey C. Williams4, G. Vernon Byrd4

1Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 3X9, Canada
2Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research, PO Box 750756, Petaluma, California 94975, USA
3Graduate School of Sciences, Hokkaido University, N10 W8, Sapporo 060-0810, Japan
4Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 95 Sterling Highway, Suite 1, Homer, Alaska 99603, USA
5Present address: Centre for Wildlife Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University,
8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia V5N 1S6, Canada
*Email:

ABSTRACT: Growing evidence indicates relationships between seabird demography and both large- and small-scale variation in climate and oceanography, yet few studies have examined multiple species and locations simultaneously. As secondary consumers, least, whiskered, and crested auklets (Aethia pusilla, A. pygmaea, and A. cristatella, respectively), congeneric planktivorous seabirds endemic to the Bering and Okhotsk seas, are expected to respond to changes in ocean climate due to their low trophic positioning. From 1990 to 2008, we measured reproductive success (productivity) and breeding phenology (mean hatching date) of auklets on Buldir, Kiska, and Kasatochi, 3 islands spanning 585 km across the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, USA. A model including Island, Species, and Winter Aleutian Low Pressure Index (ALPI) best explained productivity, with reproductive success decreasing among all species with increasing ALPI (β = –0.273 ± 0.0263 [SE]), likely through control of water temperature and prey (zooplankton) availability. Auklet productivity also increased with increasing winter sea surface temperature (SST) in the western North Pacific and western Bering Sea (and correspondingly decreased with increasing SST in the Gulf of Alaska), and was correlated negatively with spring sea-level air pressure in the North Pacific. These responses are reflective of positive values of the Aleutian low pressure system. Though our datasets cover only 19 yr or less, we found similar correlations between climate and auklet productivity among all species and islands. Together, our results suggest that ocean climatic conditions and reproductive success of planktivorous auklets are significantly related.


KEY WORDS: Productivity · Oceanography · Demography · Aethia spp. · Least auklet · Crested auklet · Whiskered auklet · Aleutian Islands


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Cite this article as: Bond AL, Jones IL, Sydeman WJ, Major HL, Minobe S, Williams JC, Byrd GV (2011) Reproductive success of planktivorous seabirds in the North Pacific is related to ocean climate on decadal scales. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 424:205-218. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08975

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