MEPS 549:199-215 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11653

Temporal shifts in seabird populations and spatial coherence with prey in the southeastern Bering Sea

Robert M. Suryan1,*, Kathy J. Kuletz2, Sandra L. Parker-Stetter3,7, Patrick H. Ressler4, Martin Renner5, John K. Horne3, Edward V. Farley6, Elizabeth A. Labunski2

1Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, OR 97365, USA
2US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 E Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503, USA
3School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Box 355020, Seattle, WA 98195-5020, USA
4Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering Division, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, USA
5Tern Again Consulting, 308 E Bayview Avenue, Homer, AK 99603, USA
6Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 17109 Pt. Lena Loop Road, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
7Present address: Fishery Resources Analysis and Monitoring Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2725 Montlake Boulevard East, Seattle, WA 98112, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Bering Sea is a highly productive ecosystem with abundant prey populations in the summer that support some of the largest seabird colonies in the Northern Hemisphere. In the fall, the Bering Sea is used by large numbers of migrants and post-breeding seabirds. We used over 22000 km of vessel-based surveys carried out during summer (June to July) and fall (late August to October) from 2008 to 2010 over the southeast Bering Sea to examine annual and seasonal changes in seabird communities and spatial relationships with concurrently sampled prey. Deep-diving murres Uria spp., shallow-diving shearwaters Ardenna spp., and surface-foraging northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis and kittiwakes Rissa spp. dominated summer and fall seabird communities. Seabird densities in summer were generally less than half of fall densities and species richness was lower in summer than in fall. Summer seabird densities had high interannual variation (highest in 2009), whereas fall densities varied little among years. Seabirds were more spatially clustered around breeding colonies and the outer continental shelf in the summer and then dispersed throughout the middle and inner shelf in fall. In summer, the abundance of age-1 walleye pollock Gadus chalcogrammus along with spatial (latitude and longitude) and temporal (year) variables best explained broad-scale seabird distribution. In contrast, seabirds in fall had weaker associations with spatial and temporal variables and stronger associations with different prey species or groups. Our results demonstrate seasonal shifts in the distribution and foraging patterns of seabirds in the southeastern Bering Sea with a greater dependence on prey occurring over the middle and inner shelf in fall.


KEY WORDS: Seabird · Forage fish · Krill · Spatial models · Seasonal patterns


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Cite this article as: Suryan RM, Kuletz KJ, Parker-Stetter SL, Ressler PH and others (2016) Temporal shifts in seabird populations and spatial coherence with prey in the southeastern Bering Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 549:199-215. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11653

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