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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 737:9-23 (2024)  -  DOI:

Impacts of marine heatwaves may be mediated by seabird life history strategies

Eric J. Woehler1,*, Alistair J. Hobday2

1Australasian Seabird Group, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 7001
2CSIRO Environment, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 7000
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine heatwaves (MHWs) are periods of anomalously warm water associated with changes in ocean structure, based on the horizontal advection of water masses and atmospheric exchange of heat. The longest MHWs persist for many months, and dramatic effects on marine life have been reported from around the world. As top-order predators, seabirds are particularly sensitive to MHWs, with high levels of mortality associated with some events, but not with others. Thus, prediction of impacts is not straightforward, as mortality is not linearly related to simple measures of MHW intensity, persistence, and areal coverage. We describe biological responses expected for seabirds, based on demographic parameters and the geographic proximity and phenological timing of MHWs with respect to seabirds. The expected interactions between seabirds and MHWs will be complex (with some responses likely to be unpredictable) and will extend over broad spatial and temporal scales. The spatial proximity of anomalous marine conditions to breeding colonies, their overlap with foraging areas, and the degree to which MHWs coincide with pre-breeding and breeding seasons presently generate the greatest pressures on seabird populations. We posit that area-restricted seabird species, in terms of movement and breeding strategies, are at greater risk from MHWs, but that non-linear effects complicate prediction. The impacts of MHWs on seabirds may be mediated by their life history strategies.

KEY WORDS: Prediction · Marine heatwaves · Life history strategy · Seabirds

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Cite this article as: Woehler EJ, Hobday AJ (2024) Impacts of marine heatwaves may be mediated by seabird life history strategies. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 737:9-23.

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