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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 305:219-233 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps305219

Distribution of foraging shearwaters relative to inner front of SE Bering Sea

J. Jahncke1,*, K. O. Coyle2, S. I. Zeeman3, N. B. Kachel4, G. L. Hunt Jr.1

1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California 92697, USA
2Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of New England, Biddeford, Maine 04005, USA
4NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sandpoint Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA

ABSTRACT: We examined the hypothesis that short-tailed shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris aggregate to forage at the inner front of the SE Bering Sea because of enhanced production there. We tested this hypothesis by comparing primary production, the distribution of euphausiids and the distribution of shearwaters relative to the front during late spring and late summer/early fall of 1997, 1998 and 1999. We found enhanced primary production at the front and offshore of the front during summer but not during spring. Primary production varied between seasons and years. Major differences were related to anomalous conditions in 1997 and 1998. The density of euphausiids was higher at the front and offshore of the front during summer, but there were no differences among regions during spring. Foraging shearwaters aggregated in high densities at the front during summer, but foraged close to shore during spring. At the front, shearwaters foraged on euphausiids Thysanoessa raschii and T. inermis as expected, and on copepods that accumulated in the area. The proportion of zooplankton consumed at the front decreased from summer 1997 to summer 1999, while consumption of sandlance Ammodytes hexapterus at this feature increased. Our results show that, during summer, the inner front supports aggregations of euphausiids and their seabird predators. The means by which the frontal system supports enhanced production and the subsequent trophic transfers is dependent on the availability of nutrients at depth in the frontal region and the aggregation of small zooplankton organisms in this feature.

KEY WORDS: Short-tailed shearwater · Puffinus tenuirostris · Euphausiids · Thysanoessa raschii · Thysanoessa inermis · Seabird foraging · Fronts · Bering Sea

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