4 - The use of biologically meaningful oceanographic indices to separate the effects of climate and fisheries on seabird breeding success  pp. 46-62

The use of biologically meaningful oceanographic indices to separate the effects of climate and fisheries on seabird breeding success

By B. E. Scott et al.

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An important issue when considering seabird breeding success is what factors affect prey availability. If availability reflects absolute prey abundance, different species preying on the same prey population should show synchronized variation in breeding success. If, on the other hand, species-specific foraging techniques coupled with prevailing oceanographic conditions result in differential access to prey, then, breeding success is likely to vary asynchronously between species. Furthermore, for each species, long-term variation in breeding success should be predictable using appropriate oceanographic covariates. Currently, commercial fishing quotas are set on the assumption that prey abundance is the only important factor for multispecies management. Therefore, it is essential to understand prey availability in the context of both climate change and fishing pressure. This requires an integrated approach and in this chapter we demonstrate the potential of combining long-term demographic data from seabirds with output from a one-dimensional physical–biological model. Using data from the North Sea, we examine relationships between breeding performance and biologically meaningful indices of the physical environment during a period of years with and without an industrial fishery. We speculate how the contrasting responses shown by two seabird species might reflect differences in prey availability mediated by foraging technique.

Over the last 20 to 30 years, seabirds in the North Sea have shown considerable temporal variability in breeding success (Ratcliffe 2004).

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