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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 563:1-11 (2017)  -  DOI:

Weakening of the subpolar gyre as a key driver of North Atlantic seabird demography: a case study with Brünnich’s guillemots in Svalbard

Julie Fluhr1, 2,*, Hallvard Strøm1, Roger Pradel2, Olivier Duriez2, Gregory Beaugrand3, Sébastien Descamps1

1Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Postboks 6606 Langnes, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
2Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive UMR 5175, CNRS - Université Montpellier - Université P. Valéry - EPHE, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France
3Laboratoire d’Océanologie et Géosciences (UMR LOG 8187-CNRS), Université Lille Nord de France, Département « Système Terre: enveloppes superficielles », Station marine, 28 Avenue Foch, 62930 Wimereux, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Arctic is experiencing environmental changes at unprecedented rates. These changes are spreading throughout the entire food web, affecting apex predators such as seabirds. Brünnich’s guillemot Uria lomvia populations in Svalbard archipelago have significantly declined since the mid-1990s. For long-lived species such as seabirds, population growth rate is highly sensitive to changes in adult survival rates, and slight changes in survival may have large consequences at the population level. Adult survival rates, were estimated for Brünnich’s guillemots individually marked and monitored from 1986 to 2011 at Bjørnøya, Svalbard. While survival appeared to be repeatedly high (mean ± SE; 95 ± 1%) from 1986 to 1995-98 (transitional years, when Svalbard guillemot colonies started to decline), it dropped by 9-12% over the period 1995-98 to 2011. This decline coincided with the occurrence of an abrupt ecosystem shift in the North Atlantic Ocean in the mid-1990s and the weakening of the Atlantic subpolar gyre. Variations in the subpolar gyre index (SGI) were significantly associated with inter-annual variation in guillemot annual survival, and a strong gyre (i.e. cold waters on guillemot wintering grounds) was associated with high adult survival. Our results, combined with other studies, suggest that the SGI may be an important global proxy to assess oceanographic conditions and changes in marine ecosystems in the North Atlantic.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Regime shift · Seabirds · Adult survival · Subpolar Gyre Index · Winter North Atlantic Oscillation · Sea surface temperature · Uria lomvia · Arctic

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Cite this article as: Fluhr J, Strøm H, Pradel R, Duriez O, Beaugrand G, Descamps S (2017) Weakening of the subpolar gyre as a key driver of North Atlantic seabird demography: a case study with Brünnich’s guillemots in Svalbard. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 563:1-11.

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