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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 352:275-288 (2007)  -  DOI:

Beached birds and physical forcing in the California Current System

Julia K. Parrish1,*, Nicholas Bond2, Hannah Nevins3, Nathan Mantua1,2, Robert Loeffel4, William T. Peterson5, James T. Harvey3

1School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Box 355020, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-5020, USA
2Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA
3Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, 8272 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, California 95039, USA
49626 SE Cedar St., South Beach, Oregon 97366, USA
5Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Newport, Oregon 97366, USA

ABSTRACT: Seabirds have often been proposed as environmental indicators. Beached bird data may provide an additional data source and such data is efficacious because it can reliably be collected by volunteers. In addition to anthropogenic factors, such as oil spills, changes in the ocean-atmosphere can affect carcass beaching rate in 3 non-exclusive ways: (1) direct mortality following storms, (2) mortality via bottom-up food web processes, and (3) increase in carcass delivery due to shifts in surface water movement. We used data from 3 volunteer-based beached bird data sets collected within the California Current System (CCS) to (1) examine the level of response to anomalous ocean conditions in 2005 and (2) explore the degree to which long-term beaching patterns could be explained by one or more of our proposed mechanisms. In 2005, anomalous die-offs of Cassin’s auklet Ptychorhamphus aleuticus and the rhinoceros auklet Cerorhinca monocerata occurred in the winter in Monterey. By spring, anomalous die-offs of Brandt’s cormorant Phalacrocorax pencillatus and the common murre Uria aalge occurred throughout the CCS. Over the longer term, increases in beaching were associated with changes in the timing and intensity of upwelling and, secondarily, with zonal winds aloft—a potential proxy of shifts in pelagic community composition. These results suggest that a bottom-up food web mechanism best explains seabird beaching, at least in the spring. Correlations of local measures of storminess to seabird beaching rates were weak to non-existent. Correlations were much stronger at the California site (8 yr) and weaker to non-existent at the Oregon site (26 yr). Collectively, these data suggest that relationships between ocean physics and beached bird response may be site specific and/or may reflect choices live birds make vis-à-vis non-breeding distribution.

KEY WORDS: Upwelling · Seabird · Common murre · Brandt’s cormorant · Cassin’s auklet · Rhinoceros auklet

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Cite this article as: Parrish JK, Bond N, Nevins H, Mantua N, Loeffel R, Peterson WT, Harvey JT (2007) Beached birds and physical forcing in the California Current System. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 352:275-288.

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