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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 415:283-293 (2010)  -  DOI:

Foraging distributions of little auks Alle alle across the Greenland Sea: implications of present and future Arctic climate change

Nina Karnovsky1,*, Ann Harding2, Wojciech Walkusz3, Sławomir Kwaśniewski3, Ilona Goszczko3, Josef Wiktor Jr3, Heli Routti4, Allison Bailey1, Laurel McFadden1, Zachary Brown1, Grégory Beaugrand5, David Grémillet6,7

1Department of Biology, Pomona College, 175 W 6th St., Claremont, California 91711, USA
2Environmental Science Department, Alaska Pacific University, 4101 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, USA
3Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Powstańców Warszawy 55, 81-712 Sopot, Poland
4Norwegian Polar Institute, Polar Environmental Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
5Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire d’Océanologie et de Géosciences, UMR CNRS 8187 LOG, Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille 1, Station Marine, 28 avenue Foch, 69360 Wimereux, France
6Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, CEFE, 1919 route de Mende, F 34293 Montpellier, Cedex 5, France
7Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa

ABSTRACT: The Arctic is undergoing widespread warming. In order to understand the impact of climate change on Arctic marine food webs, we studied the at-sea distribution of foraging little auks in contrasting conditions of the Greenland Sea. While the eastern side of the Greenland Sea has experienced recent warming, the western side is still dominated by cold, Arctic water in the East Greenland Current. We hypothesized that foraging little auks would be found in greatest abundance in cold Arctic waters bearing more lipid-rich prey, allowing them to deliver more energy-rich food to their chicks. To test our hypotheses, we made ship-borne bird observations and zooplankton tows, as well as analyses of chick meals at 2 little auk colonies adjacent to 3 distinct water masses in the Greenland Sea. Associated with the coldest water in the East Greenland Current, we found the highest concentrations of large Calanus copepods (C. glacialis and C. hyperboreus), as well as the highest concentrations of foraging little auks, indicating a relationship that is likely to be disrupted by increasing water temperatures. To assess potential future impacts of ocean warming, we used a coupled atmosphere–ocean global climate model (AOGCM) to predict Greenland Sea sea-surface temperatures over the study area at the end of the 21st century. Our results suggest that 4 of 8 little auk breeding colonies in the North Atlantic may be negatively impacted as temperatures exceed the thermal preferenda of large Calanus, which is the preferred prey of little auks during the breeding season.

KEY WORDS: At-sea observations · Calanus copepod · Climate model · East Greenland Current · Seabird · Little auk · Sea temperature · West Spitsbergen Current

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Cite this article as: Karnovsky N, Harding A, Walkusz W, Kwaśniewski S and others (2010) Foraging distributions of little auks Alle alle across the Greenland Sea: implications of present and future Arctic climate change. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 415:283-293.

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