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Sympatric Atlantic puffins and razorbills show contrasting responses to adverse marine conditions during winter foraging within the North Sea

Sympatric Atlantic puffins and razorbills show contrasting responses to adverse marine conditions during winter foraging within the North Sea
Sympatric Atlantic puffins and razorbills show contrasting responses to adverse marine conditions during winter foraging within the North Sea
Background
Natural environments are dynamic systems with conditions varying across years. Higher trophic level consumers may respond to changes in the distribution and quality of available prey by moving to locate new resources or by switching diets. In order to persist, sympatric species with similar ecological niches may show contrasting foraging responses to changes in environmental conditions. However, in marine environments this assertion remains largely untested for highly mobile predators outside the breeding season because of the challenges of quantifying foraging location and trophic position under contrasting conditions.

Method
Differences in overwinter survival rates of two populations of North Sea seabirds (Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) and razorbills (Alca torda)) indicated that environmental conditions differed between 2007/08 (low survival and thus poor conditions) and 2014/15 (higher survival, favourable conditions). We used a combination of bird-borne data loggers and stable isotope analyses to test 1) whether these sympatric species showed consistent responses with respect to foraging location and trophic position to these contrasting winter conditions during periods when body and cheek feathers were being grown (moult) and 2) whether any observed changes in moult locations and diet could be related to the abundance and distribution of potential prey species of differing energetic quality.

Results
Puffins and razorbills showed divergent foraging responses to contrasting winter conditions. Puffins foraging in the North Sea used broadly similar foraging locations during moult in both winters. However, puffin diet significantly differed, with a lower average trophic position in the winter characterised by lower survival rates. By contrast, razorbills’ trophic position increased in the poor survival winter and the population foraged in more distant southerly waters of the North Sea.

Conclusions
Populations of North Sea puffins and razorbills showed contrasting foraging responses when environmental conditions, as indicated by overwinter survival differed. Conservation of mobile predators, many of which are in sharp decline, may benefit from dynamic spatial based management approaches focusing on behavioural changes in response to changing environmental conditions, particularly during life history stages associated with increased mortality.
St John Glew, Kate
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Wanless, Sarah
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Harris, Michael
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Daunt, Francis
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Erikstad, Kjell Einar
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Strom, Hallvard
b0f29c92-c29e-4c9d-a04b-ea09b25199b6
Speakman, John
1b737edc-cf0a-41b1-ae53-ceb07e3b8604
Kurten, Benjamin
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Trueman, Clive
d00d3bd6-a47b-4d47-89ae-841c3d506205
St John Glew, Kate
8f3bc334-6c9b-4280-bd3c-2ca3290f0650
Wanless, Sarah
b403c12b-7caa-4646-a573-dff648829084
Harris, Michael
50836612-d677-40c4-bb3f-3c3cfbdbb68d
Daunt, Francis
5b3386db-2857-4f55-b072-a48e0efc9fae
Erikstad, Kjell Einar
35e66fa8-8d26-464f-98b3-24d6cab23fe5
Strom, Hallvard
b0f29c92-c29e-4c9d-a04b-ea09b25199b6
Speakman, John
1b737edc-cf0a-41b1-ae53-ceb07e3b8604
Kurten, Benjamin
27055245-ddfc-4b7a-a1d5-29c930c30ca0
Trueman, Clive
d00d3bd6-a47b-4d47-89ae-841c3d506205

St John Glew, Kate, Wanless, Sarah, Harris, Michael, Daunt, Francis, Erikstad, Kjell Einar, Strom, Hallvard, Speakman, John, Kurten, Benjamin and Trueman, Clive (2019) Sympatric Atlantic puffins and razorbills show contrasting responses to adverse marine conditions during winter foraging within the North Sea. Movement Ecology, 7, [33]. (doi:10.1186/s40462-019-0174-4.).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Background
Natural environments are dynamic systems with conditions varying across years. Higher trophic level consumers may respond to changes in the distribution and quality of available prey by moving to locate new resources or by switching diets. In order to persist, sympatric species with similar ecological niches may show contrasting foraging responses to changes in environmental conditions. However, in marine environments this assertion remains largely untested for highly mobile predators outside the breeding season because of the challenges of quantifying foraging location and trophic position under contrasting conditions.

Method
Differences in overwinter survival rates of two populations of North Sea seabirds (Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) and razorbills (Alca torda)) indicated that environmental conditions differed between 2007/08 (low survival and thus poor conditions) and 2014/15 (higher survival, favourable conditions). We used a combination of bird-borne data loggers and stable isotope analyses to test 1) whether these sympatric species showed consistent responses with respect to foraging location and trophic position to these contrasting winter conditions during periods when body and cheek feathers were being grown (moult) and 2) whether any observed changes in moult locations and diet could be related to the abundance and distribution of potential prey species of differing energetic quality.

Results
Puffins and razorbills showed divergent foraging responses to contrasting winter conditions. Puffins foraging in the North Sea used broadly similar foraging locations during moult in both winters. However, puffin diet significantly differed, with a lower average trophic position in the winter characterised by lower survival rates. By contrast, razorbills’ trophic position increased in the poor survival winter and the population foraged in more distant southerly waters of the North Sea.

Conclusions
Populations of North Sea puffins and razorbills showed contrasting foraging responses when environmental conditions, as indicated by overwinter survival differed. Conservation of mobile predators, many of which are in sharp decline, may benefit from dynamic spatial based management approaches focusing on behavioural changes in response to changing environmental conditions, particularly during life history stages associated with increased mortality.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 20 September 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 1 November 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 435627
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/435627
PURE UUID: e2fc9e70-ccf0-41d2-96d6-cb97f617265a

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 14 Nov 2019 17:30
Last modified: 06 Oct 2020 17:45

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