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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 668:107-120 (2021)  -  DOI:

Demographic responses to environmental change of the black-browed albatross, sentinel of the Patagonian Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem

Francesco Ventura1,*, Paul M. Lukacs2, José Pedro Granadeiro1, Ricardo Matano3, Paulo Catry4

1CESAM, Departamento de Biologia Animal, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
2Wildlife Biology Program, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, WA Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812, USA
3College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
4MARE—Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, ISPA—Instituto Universitaŕio, Rua Jardim do Tabaco 34, 1149-041 Lisboa, Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In long-lived marine top-predators with delayed sexual maturity such as seabirds, adult survival is predicted to drive population dynamics. Major knowledge gaps exist for the cryptic sub-adult stages of the population. Yet as the oceans undergo dramatic change, investigating the trends of top-predator populations and their responses to environmental variability is key for a process-based understanding of climate change. Using integrated population models based on a longitudinal data set spanning nearly 2 decades, we investigated the demographic rates and environmental drivers shaping the dynamics of a longevous marine top-predator population, the black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris in the Falklands. We quantified the dynamics of the whole population, including its cryptic sub-adult stages, and examined the effects of candidate environmental covariates on adult survival and productivity parameters. We found that high survival rates of both adults and juveniles are the main contributors to the growth of this albatross population, the only one that is increasing in the South Atlantic. The breeding parameters were affected by environmental fluctuations through bottom-up processes, with a negative effect of higher sea surface temperatures and a positive effect of wind intensity. The relatively constant adult survival was influenced by deeper ecosystem changes, captured by large-scale indices (Southern Annular Mode). Approximately half of the total population is composed of sub-adults, and the population dynamics are highly sensitive to changes in juvenile survival; addressing current knowledge gaps in these cryptic life-history stages is therefore a conservation goal of primary importance.

KEY WORDS: Juvenile survival · Demography · Integrated population model · Top-predator · Conservation · Seabird · Albatross

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Cite this article as: Ventura F, Lukacs PM, Granadeiro JP, Matano R, Catry P (2021) Demographic responses to environmental change of the black-browed albatross, sentinel of the Patagonian Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 668:107-120.

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