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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Seasonal variation in marine bird distribution in the northeast Pacific Ocean

Lili Simon*, Peter Arcese, Caroline H. Fox, Ken H. Morgan, Scott Wilson

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Human activities have profound influences on marine ecosystems. Marine birds are particularly sensitive to these impacts and, given their ease of observation and diverse life histories, often represent good indicators of ecosystem health. Conserving marine birds and their ecosystems requires robust predictions of species distribution to help mitigate human disturbance in areas where large aggregations of diverse species occur. We modeled variation in marine bird species diversity (Shannon-Wiener Index) and taxonomic family level probability of occurrence to map the intensity and extent of highly diverse ‘hotspots’ in Canada’s Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone. To do so, we paired 20 years of survey data from the North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database (1997–2017) and remote sensing data describing marine conditions and local geography (sea surface temperature, chlorophyll a, bathymetry, distance to shore, and benthic substrate type). These data were used to illustrate how seasonality within years and the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) across years influenced spatial patterns in diversity. Hotspots were most persistent in Hecate Strait, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, and surrounding the Scott Islands in most seasons. Changes in hotspot locations and intensity were observed across seasons and within season under varying ENSO conditions. Our results provide a template for mapping marine species distribution for the purpose of identifying hotspots of diversity, and thereby facilitate planning to minimize harmful impacts in highly diverse and dynamic systems.