MEPS 454:197-206 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09590

Little auks buffer the impact of current Arctic climate change

David Grémillet1,2,*, Jorg Welcker3, Nina J. Karnovsky4, Wojciech Walkusz5,6, Margaret E. Hall7, Jérôme Fort8, Zachary W. Brown4, John R. Speakman9, Ann M. A. Harding10

1Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR5175, CNRS-INEE, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
2Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
3Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
4Pomona College, Department of Biology, 175 W. Sixth Street, Claremont, California 91771, USA
5Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Powstańców Warszawy 55, 81-712 Sopot, Poland
6Freshwater Institute, Fisheries and Oceans, 501 University Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N6, Canada
7BirdWatch Ireland, Unit 20 Block D, Bullford Business Campus, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
8Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
9School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK
10Alaska Pacific University, Environmental Science Department, 4101 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, USA

ABSTRACT: Climate models predict a multi-degree warming of the North Atlantic in the 21st century. A research priority is to understand the effect of such changes upon marine organisms. With 40 to 80 million individuals, planktivorous little auks Alle alle are an essential component of pelagic food webs in this region that is potentially highly susceptible to climatic effects. Using an integrative study of their behaviour, physiology and fitness at 3 study sites, we evaluated the effect of ocean warming on little auks across the Greenland Sea in 2005 to 2007. Contrary to our hypothesis, the birds responded to a wide range of sea surface temperatures via plasticity of their foraging behaviour, allowing them to maintain their fitness levels. Predicted effects of climate change are significantly attenuated by such plasticity, confounding attempts to forecast future effects of climate change using envelope models.


KEY WORDS: Behavioural plasticity · Envelope models · Global warming · North Atlantic · Pelagic food web · Zooplankton


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Cite this article as: Grémillet D, Welcker J, Karnovsky NJ, Walkusz W and others (2012) Little auks buffer the impact of current Arctic climate change. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 454:197-206. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09590

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