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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 485:287-294 (2013)  -  DOI:

Density-dependent foraging and colony growth in a pelagic seabird species under varying environmental conditions

Rachel D. Davies1,*, Sarah Wanless2, Sue Lewis3, Keith C. Hamer1

1School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
2Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik EH26 0QB, UK
3Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK

ABSTRACT: Intra-specific competition for food resources affects both foraging behaviour and population growth rates in many species, highlighting a need to better understand how changing environmental conditions affect individuals in populations of different sizes. Using chick-rearing northern gannets as a model, we examined the influence of colony size on per capita population growth rates over 2 time periods (1994-2000 and 2000-2009) and on foraging trip durations in each of 2 years (2000 and 2009) at 10 colonies in 2 separate regions of the UK and Ireland (the North Sea and the Celtic/Irish Sea). The slope of the relationship between population size and foraging trip duration in 2009 was less than one quarter of that in 2000, suggesting a much weaker influence of population size in 2009, presumably due to less intense intra-specific competition for prey resources at sea. There was also regional variation, with colonies in the Celtic/Irish Sea growing substantially slower for their size over the period between 2000 and 2009 than did colonies bordering the North Sea, whilst observed trip durations in 2009 were on average 13% shorter than predicted from population size at colonies bordering the North Sea, but 32% longer than predicted at colonies in the Celtic and Irish Seas. These data suggest less favourable conditions for gannets in the latter region in recent years, and that annual variation in trip durations will be particularly marked at large colonies, making them especially vulnerable to adverse effects of low prey availability at sea.

KEY WORDS: Competition · Climate change · Northern gannets · Morus bassanus · North Sea · Populations

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Cite this article as: Davies RD, Wanless S, Lewis S, Hamer KC (2013) Density-dependent foraging and colony growth in a pelagic seabird species under varying environmental conditions. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 485:287-294.

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