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Seabirds, environmental features and the Argentine anchovy (Engraulis anchoita) in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean

Paloma Lumi Costa*, Leandro Bugoni, Paul G. Kinas, Lauro Antônio Saint Pastous Madureira

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As top predators in marine environments, seabirds frequently respond to the presence of their main prey, and both predators and prey are usually associated with specific environmental features. We investigated the variability in the presence and density of flying seabirds (Procellariiformes and Charadriiformes) and Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) along the southwestern (SW) Atlantic continental shelf. Five acoustic assessment surveys were conducted to determine the biomass of the Argentine anchovy (Engraulis anchoita), and seabird counts and the collection of oceanographic data were conducted simultaneously with the surveys between June and October 2010. Generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) were fitted to test the effect of anchovy density and environmental variables on seabird density. Sea surface temperature was significant for the presence of flying seabirds. Bottom water temperature and anchovy density were key variables affecting the presence and density of penguins, while bottom water salinity was also important for penguin presence. Based on the ΔAIC values, the most important factor explaining the density of flying seabirds was difference between surface and bottom salinity (ΔS), while for penguin density, the most important factor was anchovy density. These results highlight that the subtropical shelf front in the SW Atlantic Ocean is a key feature influencing the aggregation of flying seabirds and confirm the close association of penguins and anchovies. Bottom water intrusion, originating from the sub-Antarctic shelf water is an important factor explaining the presence of penguins, which tend to aggregate in areas with high anchovy densities on the SW Atlantic continental shelf.