MEPS 519:209-220 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11100

Forage fish abundance is a predictor of timing of breeding and hatching brood size in a coastal seabird

Svein-Håkon Lorentsen1,*, Tycho Anker-Nilssen1, Kjell Einar Erikstad2,3, Nils Røv1

1Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, 7485 Trondheim, Norway
2Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, FRAM - High North Research Centre on Climate and the Environment,
9296 Tromsø, Norway
3Centre for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology,
7049 Trondheim, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Current and future climate alterations might impact ecological processes like timing of breeding. We used multivariate linear models to assess the importance of food availability and climate on timing of breeding and hatching brood size of European shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis in 2 colonies, Sklinna (65° N) and Røst (67° N), in the Norwegian Sea over 21 yr (1989 to 2009). Predictor variables were ICES abundance estimates of young saithe Pollachius virens, the staple food of shags in these colonies, the previous winter’s North Atlantic Oscillation index (wNAO), and sea surface and air temperatures. Annual population size was included to control for density-dependent effects. The best model for hatching date explained 15% (Sklinna) and 70% (Røst) of the variation and showed that shags bred earlier when 1 yr old saithe were more abundant. The model for Røst also included 2 yr old saithe and wNAO. The best model for hatching brood size explained 40% (Sklinna) and 48% (Røst) and included a positive effect of population size at both sites. The model for Røst also included a positive effect of 1 yr old saithe. Our study demonstrates that abundance of 1 yr old saithe is a key factor for the breeding performance of shags in both colonies, whereas the climate variables were of less importance. Delayed breeding and low brood size were not associated with a high population of breeders, indicating breeding performance was density-independent and that the positive relationship between breeding numbers and saithe abundance mainly reflected variation in non-breeding among established breeders.


KEY WORDS: Phalacrocorax aristotelis · Norwegian Sea · Timing of breeding · Brood size · Pollachius virens · NAO


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Cite this article as: Lorentsen SH, Anker-Nilssen T, Erikstad KE, Røv N (2015) Forage fish abundance is a predictor of timing of breeding and hatching brood size in a coastal seabird. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 519:209-220. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11100

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