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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 737:137-145 (2024)  -  DOI:

Shy albatross Thalassarche cauta chick mortality and heat stress in a temperate climate

Claire Mason1,2,*, Alistair J. Hobday2, Rachael Alderman3, Mary-Anne Lea1

1Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Battery Point, Tasmania 7004, Australia
2CSIRO Environment, Battery Point, Tasmania 7004, Australia
3Tasmanian Government, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: With increasing air temperatures and frequency of extreme weather events predicted under climate change, ground-nesting seabird chicks are vulnerable, enduring months at a fixed and often completely exposed nest site, with limited behavioural capacity to reduce heat load. Endangered shy albatross Thalassarche cauta breed in temperate southern Australia, a region warming at about 4 times the global average. We used a remote-monitoring camera to obtain the daily status for ~150 nests each season for 7 seasons (2014-2015 to 2020-2021; 1036 nests in total), allowing clear determination of the date of chick death. We explored local weather conditions associated with chick mortality. We observed 68 downy chick deaths (55%) across a 30 d period in 2018. This period corresponded with anomalously high and prolonged wet bulb temperature, an index for heat stress. We show that shy albatross breeding attempts are vulnerable to hot weather conditions and define extreme heat stress conditions for this species (>20° wet bulb temperature). Documenting the relationship between chick survival and heat before future catastrophic events occur gives managers time to plan for future heatwaves by developing climate adaptation strategies for seabird populations.

KEY WORDS: Thermoregulation · Climate change · Heatwaves · Seabirds · Temperature extremes · Survival

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Cite this article as: Mason C, Hobday AJ, Alderman R, Lea MA (2024) Shy albatross Thalassarche cauta chick mortality and heat stress in a temperate climate. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 737:137-145.

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