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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps14276

Across the North Pacific, dietary-induced stress of breeding rhinoceros auklets increases with high summer Pacific Decadal Oscillation index

Ui Shimabukuro*, Akinori Takahashi, Jumpei Okado, Nobuo Kokubun, Jean-Baptiste Thiebot, Alexis Will, Yutaka Watanuki, BriAnne Addison, Scott A. Hatch, J. Mark Hipfner, Leslie Slater, Brie A. Drummond, Alexander S. Kitaysky

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Multi-colony studies of breeding seabirds may provide insights into the mechanistic links between large-scale climate variability and local changes in prey availability. In the North Pacific, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a dominant climate index, characterized by contrasting patterns in sea surface temperature between the western and eastern North Pacific. To examine how inter-annual variability in PDO affects rhinoceros auklets Cerorhinca monocerata across the North Pacific, we measured inter-annual changes in nutritional stress (as reflected in plasma levels of corticosterone) of adults breeding on 5 colonies (2 and 3 colonies from the western and eastern Pacific, respectively). We also examined concurrent changes in mass and energy content of food loads delivered to chicks. We found that higher summer PDO values were associated with increased corticosterone levels and lower mass and energy contents of the food loads in both the western and eastern North Pacific colonies. Results indicate that higher summer PDO was associated with local changes in forage fish communities, leading to reduced availability of prey, which, in turn, increased the nutritional stress of breeding birds. We conclude that the higher summer PDO index in recent years was associated with food-poor conditions for breeding rhinoceros auklets across their reproductive range, and prolonged periods of high summer PDO may be detrimental to the populations of this seabird species. Our results highlight the complexity of the mechanisms on how large-scale climate variability affects seabirds with a large geographical distribution.