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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 737:101-120 (2024)  -  DOI:

Resilience to a severe marine heatwave at two Pacific seabird colonies

Eric L. Wagner1,*, Scott F. Pearson2, Thomas P. Good3, Peter J. Hodum4,5, Eric R. Buhle6,7, Michael B. Schrimpf8

1Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA
2Wildlife Science Division, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington 98501, USA
3Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, Washington 98112, USA
4Biology Department, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington 98416, USA
5Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, San Juan Bautista, Robinson Crusoe Island, Valparaíso Region, Chile
6Mount Hood Environmental, Sandy, Oregon, 97055, USA
7Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, Seattle, Washington 98112, USA
8Laboratory of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: A severe marine heat wave (MHW) persisted in the California Current ecosystem from 2014 through 2016. The MHW featured record-high sea surface temperatures in 2015, with 2014 to 2016 being the warmest 3 yr period on record. Our decade-long (2010-2019) breeding and diet monitoring of the rhinoceros auklet Cerorhinca monocerata, a burrow-nesting seabird, at significant breeding colonies on Destruction Island (California Current) and Protection Island (Salish Sea) allowed us to compare reproductive and dietary responses to this MHW. Although the colonies are relatively close to each other, and their reproductive output is, on average, similar, the auklets’ responses to the MHW differed. At Destruction Island, burrow occupancy rates were lower during the MHW (0.54 ± 0.02 vs. 0.61 ± 0.02 [mean ± SE] in non-MHW years), suggesting that birds skipped breeding, but fledging success rates did not differ (0.85 ± 0.02 vs. 0.89 ± 0.03). At Protection Island, burrow occupancy remained at non-MHW levels (0.72 ± 0.02 vs. 0.69 ± 0.02), but reproductive success declined (0.71 ± 0.03 vs. 0.82 ± 0.02). Chick provisioning also showed different patterns. The energy (kJ) per bill load at Destruction Island showed no clear MHW effect, while at Protection Island, it was reduced. At the same time, bill-load prey item count rose at Protection Island, indicating increased foraging effort and/or a reduction in diet quality. Our results further suggest rhinoceros auklets may be more resilient than other seabird species to major climate perturbations. However, with MHWs predicted to become more frequent and severe, the auklets’ ability to maintain these levels of breeding success will be tested.

KEY WORDS: Rhinoceros auklet · Cerorhinca monocerata · Alcids · Climate change · Forage fish · Marine heatwaves

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Cite this article as: Wagner EL, Pearson SF, Good TP, Hodum PJ, Buhle ER, Schrimpf MB (2024) Resilience to a severe marine heatwave at two Pacific seabird colonies. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 737:101-120.

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