MEPS 393:235-246 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08222

Climate change and phenological responses of two seabird species breeding in the high-Arctic

Børge Moe1,2,*, Lech Stempniewicz3, Dariusz Jakubas3, Frédéric Angelier4,5, Olivier Chastel4, Frode Dinessen6, Geir W. Gabrielsen7, Frank Hanssen8, Nina J. Karnovsky9, Bernt Rønning1, Jorg Welcker7, Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas3, Claus Bech1

1Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), 7491 Trondheim, Norway
2Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Division of Arctic Ecology, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
3Department of Vertebrate Ecology and Zoology, University of Gdansk, al. Legionów 9, 80-441 Gdansk, Poland
4Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France
5Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20008, USA
6Norwegian Meteorological Institute, 9293 Tromsø, Norway
7Norwegian Polar Institute, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
8Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), 7485 Trondheim, Norway
9Department of Biology, Pomona College, Claremont, California 91711, USA

ABSTRACT: The timing of breeding is a life-history trait that can greatly affect fitness, because successful reproduction depends on the match between the food requirements for raising young and the seasonal peak in food availability. We analysed phenology (hatch dates) in relation to climate change for 2 seabird species breeding in the high-Arctic, little auks Alle alle and black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla, for the periods 1963–2008 and 1970–2008, respectively. We show that spring climate has changed during the study period, with a strong increase in both air temperature (TEMP) and sea surface temperature (SST) and a decrease in sea ice concentration. Little auks showed a trend for earlier breeding over the study period, while kittiwakes showed a non-significant trend for later breeding, demonstrating different phenological responses in these 2 species. Little auks and kittiwakes adjusted their timing of breeding to different environmental signals. Spring TEMP was the best predictor of little auk phenology, with a significant negative effect. Spring SST was the strongest predictor of kittiwake phenology, with a non-significant negative effect. Spring sea ice concentration and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) winter index had a low relative variable importance. Furthermore, in kittiwakes, years with late breeding were associated with low clutch size and mean annual breeding success, indicating poor investment and food availability. This study identifies some spring environmental factors important for regulating the timing of breeding in the high-Arctic, most likely through effects on snow cover limiting access to nest sites and the development of the polar marine food web. It remains to be investigated whether environmental factors are reliable predictors of marine prey phenology, and whether the decision to start breeding is constrained by food availability.


KEY WORDS: Phenology · Climate change · Seabirds · Match-mismatch · Svalbard · Sea ice · Temperature · Timing of breeding


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Cite this article as: Moe B, Stempniewicz L, Jakubas D, Angelier F and others (2009) Climate change and phenological responses of two seabird species breeding in the high-Arctic. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 393:235-246. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08222

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