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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 534:279-283 (2015)  -  DOI:

Bird mortality due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Reply to Sackmann & Becker (2015)

J. Christopher Haney1,4,*, Harold J. Geiger2, Jeffrey W. Short3

1Terra Mar Applied Sciences LLC, 123 W. Nye Lane, Suite 129, Carson City, NV 89706, USA
2St. Hubert Research Group, 222 Seward, Suite 205, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
3JWS Consulting LLC, 19315 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
4Present address: Defenders of Wildlife, 1130 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-4604, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Sackmann & Becker (2015; Mar Ecol Prog Ser 534:273-277, this volume) question assumptions we used to estimate bird mortalities from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the northern Gulf of Mexico, recommending spill- and Gulf of Mexico-specific data, especially for estimating the probability of shoreline deposition of seabird carcasses killed at sea. The carcass drift and sinking study they recommend provides limited insight regarding shoreline deposition probability, because it fails to account for advection of tagged carcasses out to sea, the effects of tethering carcasses to buoyant floats, the time to abdominal cavity penetration by scavengers, or the very different conditions when the study was conducted in summer 2011 in comparison with the wind and current regime immediately following the blowout in spring 2010. Recognizing such limitations in studies of seabird carcass drift and sinking at sea, we think that the modeling approach we used, which provides parameter estimates primarily as uncertainty distributions rather than focusing on point estimates from single studies, more faithfully represents the state of knowledge supporting such estimates.

KEY WORDS: Deepwater Horizon · Avian mortality · Exposure probability · Carcass sampling · Oil spill · Gulf of Mexico · Christmas Bird Count · Marine birds

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Cite this article as: Haney JC, Geiger HJ, Short JW (2015) Bird mortality due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Reply to Sackmann & Becker (2015). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 534:279-283.

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