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ESR 43:435-445 (2020)  -  DOI:

Population status and trend of the threatened ivory gull Pagophila eburnea in Svalbard

Hallvard Strøm1,*, Vidar Bakken2, Anders Skoglund1, Sébastien Descamps1, Vegard B. Fjeldheim1, Harald Steen1

1Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Postbox 6606 Langnes, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
2ARC DA, Ombustvedtveien 20, 1592 Våler i Viken, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The ivory gull Pagophila eburnea is a high-Arctic seabird associated with sea ice throughout the year. It breeds at high latitudes, mostly in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic. It is rare (<11500 breeding pairs globally) and remains one of the most poorly known seabirds in the world. Although Svalbard (Norway) supports breeding populations of international significance, the population trend in the region was unknown prior to this study. We conducted annual surveys of known breeding sites from 2006 to 2019 to estimate the size of the ivory gull population in Svalbard and to assess the population trend. We visited 117 colonies, 60 of which were new discoveries during this study. All breeding sites were situated in cliffs, and no ground-breeding ivory gulls were found. Based on the most complete survey in 2019, we estimated the Svalbard breeding population to be between 1500 and 2000 breeding pairs. We recorded an overall 40% decline in the number of breeding ivory gulls, but the trends varied significantly among colonies. The inter-annual fluctuations in the number of breeding pairs were not synchronous among colonies, which can be explained by the movements of adult breeding birds between colonies. The current decline in the Svalbard ivory gull population could be related to the ongoing decline in sea ice extent and quality in the Barents Sea. It may also be driven by ecological changes along the migration routes or at the wintering grounds, as hypothesized for the Canadian breeding population.

KEY WORDS: Pagophila eburnea · Endangered species · Climate warming · Sea ice · Seabirds · Svalbard

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Cite this article as: Strøm H, Bakken V, Skoglund A, Descamps S, Fjeldheim VB, Steen H (2020) Population status and trend of the threatened ivory gull Pagophila eburnea in Svalbard. Endang Species Res 43:435-445.

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