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Predicting the distribution of foraging seabirds during a period of heightened environmental variability

Evans, R, Lea, M-A ORCID: 0000-0001-8318-9299 and Hindell, MA ORCID: 0000-0002-7823-7185 2021 , 'Predicting the distribution of foraging seabirds during a period of heightened environmental variability' , Ecological Applications, vol. 31, no. 5 , pp. 1-20 , doi: 10.1002/eap.2343.

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Abstract

Quantifying the links between the marine environment, prey-occurrence, and predator distributionis the first step towards identifying areas of biological importance for marine spatial planning.Events such as marine heatwaves result in an anomalous change in the physical environment,which can lead to shifts in the structure, biomass and distribution of lower trophic levels. Ascentral-place foragers, seabirds are vulnerable to changes in their foraging grounds during thebreeding season. We first quantified spatio-temporal variability in the occurrence and biomass ofprey in response to an abrupt change in oceanography as a result of a marine heatwave event.Secondly, using multivariate techniques and machine learning, we investigated if differences inthe foraging technique and prey of seabirds resulted in varying responses to changes in preyoccurrence and the environment over a 2.5 year period. We found that the main variablescorrelated with seabird distribution were also important in structuring the occurrence and biomassof prey; SST, current speed, mixed-layer depth and bathymetry. Both zooplankton biomass andthe occurrence of fish schools exhibited negative relationships with temperature, and temperaturewas subsequently an important variable in determining seabird distribution. We were able toestablish correlations between the distribution of prey and the spatio-temporal distribution ofalbatross, little penguins and common-diving petrels. We were unable to find a correlationbetween the distribution of prey and that of short-tailed shearwaters and fairy prions. For high-usecoastal areas, the delineation of important foraging regions is essential to balance human use of anarea with the needs of marine predators; particularly seabirds.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Evans, R and Lea, M-A and Hindell, MA
Keywords: predator-prey relationships, trophic interactions, boosted regression trees / BRT, foraging, hotspot, marine heatwaves, seabirds, species-distribution modelling
Journal or Publication Title: Ecological Applications
Publisher: Ecological Soc Amer
ISSN: 1051-0761
DOI / ID Number: 10.1002/eap.2343
Copyright Information:

© 2021 by the Ecological Society of America

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