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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 454:221-235 (2012)  -  DOI:

Linking climate variability, productivity and stress to demography in a long-lived seabird

William H. Satterthwaite1,2,*, Alexander S. Kitaysky3, Marc Mangel2,4

1Marine Resources Assessment Group (MRAG) Americas, Capitola, California 95010, USA
2Center for Stock Assessment Research, Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA ( present address for W.H.S.)
3Institute of Arctic Biology, Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA
4Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Bergen 5020, Norway

ABSTRACT: We examined the reproductive ecology of black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla in several breeding colonies in the North Pacific to test if inter-annual changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Winter Ice Cover (ICI), or local sea-surface temperature (SST) predict changes in productivity (fledglings per nest) or nutritional stress (corticosterone). We explored the implications of the observed variation in productivity and stress for projected population dynamics based on a previously demonstrated corticosterone−survival relationship. Although productivity was highly variable (0 to 0.9 fledglings nest−1), the relationships between productivity and environmental indices were weak, with local SST providing slightly more explanatory power than PDO or ICI, suggesting that local factors rather than large-scale climate variability may determine variation in productivity. The relationships between stress and environmental indices were stronger than the relationship between productivity and environment. The measured response of stress to environment showed opposite signs between the southern and northern colonies, and typically implied annual mortality rates varying from 11 to 17%. The observed relationships between climate and stress indicate that anticipated warming might bring at least short-term demographic benefits for kittiwakes in the Bering shelf region, while having negative impacts on birds breeding in the Gulf of Alaska and western Aleutians. We predict decline (without immigration) for colonies with the lowest productivity and conclude that climate variability is likely to affect survival of North Pacific kittiwakes on a region-specific basis. Longevity of these birds may not always be sufficient to buffer their populations from low reproductive performance.

KEY WORDS: Demographic consequence · Corticosterone · Kittiwake · Survival · Food availability · Colony

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Cite this article as: Satterthwaite WH, Kitaysky AS, Mangel M (2012) Linking climate variability, productivity and stress to demography in a long-lived seabird. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 454:221-235.

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