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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 498:287-301 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10624

Distribution and predictability of foraging areas in breeding Chatham albatrosses Thalassarche eremita in relation to environmental characteristics

Lorna Deppe1,*, Kirsty F. McGregor2, Federico Tomasetto3, James V. Briskie1, R. Paul Scofield

1School of Biological Sciences, Canterbury University, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8146, New Zealand
2Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 7, 12801 Praha, Czech Republic
3Bio-Protection Research Centre, PO Box 85084, Lincoln University, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand
4Canterbury Museum, Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The analysis of environmental characteristics to explain the distribution of endangered seabirds can aid in the identification of important areas at sea and lead to more effective conservation. We used high resolution Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking data to study the at-sea patterns of chick-rearing Chatham albatrosses Thalassarche eremita across 3 years (2007, 2008 and 2009) in relation to bathymetry, slope, sea surface temperature (SST) and chlorophyll a (chl a) concentration. Birds mostly foraged within 400 to 600 km of their colony, located within the southeastern part of New Zealand’s continental shelf, the Chatham Rise. Despite little spatial overlap across years, foraging areas were predominantly associated with waters of less than 2500 m depth, slopes of 1 to 4°, SST between 15 and 16°C, and chl a concentrations >1 mg m-3 in all years. According to boosted regression tree models, no single habitat variable particularly explained the spatial occurrence of foraging areas. However, bathymetry was of higher relative importance in 2008 and 2009, while chl a was relatively more important in 2007, a year of increased primary productivity. Our results suggest that chick-rearing Chatham albatrosses rely on resources that are generally predictable in location, but that they also respond to fine-scale changes within their foraging environment. Incorporating such dynamics into conservation planning might be best addressed by mitigating incidental bycatch in fishing operations, as well as implementing a protected area southeast of the breeding site, which we identified as a key foraging zone.


KEY WORDS: Habitat selection · Chatham Rise · GPS · BRT analysis · Important marine areas · Conservation planning


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Cite this article as: Deppe L, McGregor KF, Tomasetto F, Briskie JV, Scofield RP (2014) Distribution and predictability of foraging areas in breeding Chatham albatrosses Thalassarche eremita in relation to environmental characteristics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 498:287-301. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10624

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