We review nesting sea duck population declines in Alaska during recent decades and explore the possibility that contaminants may be implicated. Aerial surveys of the surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata), white-winged scoter (M. fusca), black scoter (M. nigra), oldsqaw (Clangula hyemalis), spectacled eider (Somateria fischeri), and Steller's eider (Polysticta stellei) show long-term breeding population declines, especially the latter three species. The spectacled eider was recently classified threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, three other diving ducks, which commonly winter in coastal areas, have declined from unknown causes. Large die-offs of all three species of scoters during molt, a period of high energy demand, were documented in August 1990, 1991, and 1992 at coastal reefs in southeastern Alaska. There was no evidence of infectious diseases in those scoters. The die-offs may or may not be associated with the long-term declines. Many scoters had elevated renal concentrations of cadmium (high of 375 micrograms/g dry weight [dw]). Effects of cadmium in sea ducks are not well understood. Selenium concentrations in livers of nesting white-winged scoters were high; however, the eggs they laid contained less selenium than expected based on relationships for freshwater bird species. Histological evaluation found a high prevalence of hepatocellular vacuolation (49%), a degenerative change frequently associated with sublethal toxic insult. Cadmium and selenium mean liver concentrations were generally higher in those birds with more severe vacuolation; however, relationships were not statistically significant. We do not know if sea duck population declines are related to metals or other contaminants.
Campylobacter infections have been reported at prevalences ranging from 2 to 50% in a range of wild bird species, although there have been few studies that have investigated the molecular epidemiology of Campylobacter spp. Consequently, whether wild birds are a source of infection in humans or domestic livestock or are mainly recipients of domestic animal strains and whether separate cycles of infection occur remain unknown. To address these questions, serial cross-sectional surveys of wild bird populations in northern England were carried out over a 2-year period. Fecal samples were collected from 2,084 wild bird individuals and screened for the presence of Campylobacter spp. A total of 56 isolates were recovered from 29 birds sampled at 15 of 167 diverse locales. Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter lari, and Campylobacter coli were detected by PCR, and the prevalences of different Campylobacter spp. in different avian families ranged from 0% to 33%. Characterization of 36 C. jejuni isolates by multilocus sequence typing revealed that wild birds carry both livestock-associated and unique strains of C. jejuni. However, the apparent absence of unique wild bird strains of C. jejuni in livestock suggests that the direction of infection is predominantly from livestock to wild birds. C. lari was detected mainly in wild birds sampled in an estuarine or coastal habitat. Fifteen C. lari isolates were analyzed by macrorestriction pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, which revealed genetically diverse populations of C. lari in Eurasian oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) and clonal populations in magpies (Pica pica).
The protection of key areas for biodiversity at sea is not as widespread as on land and research investment is necessary to identify biodiversity hotspots in the open ocean. Spatially explicit conservation measures such as the creation of representative networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) is a critical step towards the conservation and management of marine ecosystems, as well as to improve public awareness. Conservation efforts in ecologically rich and threatened ecosystems are specially needed. This is particularly urgent for the Mediterranean marine biodiversity, which includes highly mobile marine vertebrates. Here, we studied the at sea distribution of one of the most endangered Mediterranean seabird, the critically endangered Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus. Present knowledge, from vessel-based surveys, suggests that this species has a coastal distribution over the productive Iberian shelf in relation to the distribution of their main prey, small pelagic fish. We used miniaturised satellite transmitters to determine the key marine areas of the southern population of Balearic shearwaters breeding on Eivissa and spot the spatial connections between breeding and key marine areas. Our tracking study indicates that Balearic shearwaters do not only forage along the Iberian continental shelf but also in more distant marine areas along the North African coast, in particular W of Algeria, but also NE coast of Morocco. Birds recurrently visit these shelf areas at the end of the breeding season. Species distribution modelling identified chlorophyll a as the most important environmental variable in defining those oceanographic features characterizing their key habitats in the western Mediterranean. We identified persistent oceanographic features across time series available in the study area and discuss our results within the current conservation scenario in relation to the ecology of the species.
The surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) is a little-studied species of North American sea duck. Estimates suggest it has experienced a precipitous decline in breeding numbers over the latter half of the past century. To investigate the potential role of contaminant uptake and toxicity in the population decline, this study undertook to measure blood chemistry, porphyrin concentrations, EROD, and organic contaminants in mature surf scoters wintering in the Strait of Georgia, BC, Canada. Hepatic organochlorine pesticide, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin, polychlorinated dibenzofuran, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), polybrominated diphenyl ether, and nonylphenol concentrations were relatively low; for example, ΣTEQs (toxic equivalents) for PCBs, dioxins, and furans combined ranged from 4.7 ng/kg wet weight in reference-site (Baynes Sound) birds to 11.4 ng/kg wet weight in birds from Vancouver Harbour. Nonetheless, elevated EROD activity indicated that birds in Howe Sound were responding to an Ah-receptor-mediated stressor, which was also affecting hematocrit values and possibly vitamin A status. In addition, a low proportion of lymphocytes in individuals across locations in early spring samples was associated with poor body condition. The apparent loss of fitness just prior to the onset of northerly migrations to breeding grounds is of particular concern. Compromised health of mature birds at this point in the season might impact negatively on the productivity and survival of some individuals, particularly those overwintering in Howe Sound.
Studies on Gymnophalloides seoi (Digenea: Gymnophallidae) and human infections are briefly reviewed. This minute intestinal fluke was first discovered from a Korean woman suffering from acute pancreatitis and gastrointestinal troubles. It was described as a new species by Lee, Chai and Hong in 1993. The southwestern coastal village where the patient resided was found to be a highly endemic area, and additional endemic areas have been identified. The parasite is very small, 0.33-0.50 mm long and 0.23-0.33 mm wide, and characterized by the presence of a ventral pit. The first intermediate host remains unknown, but the second intermediate host has been found to be the oyster Crassostrea gigas. Man and the Palearctic oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus have been shown to be natural definitive hosts, and wading birds including the Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus are highly susceptible to experimental infection. Gerbils, hamsters, cats, and several strains of mice were also susceptible laboratory hosts. In experimentally infected mice, the parasites inhabit the small intestine, pinching and sucking the root of villi with their large oral suckers, but they did not invade beyond the mucosa in immunocompetent mice. However, they were found to invade the submucosa in immunosuppressed mice. Human G. seoi infections have been found in at least 25 localities; 23 islands on the Yellow Sea or the South Sea, and 2 western coastal villages. The highest prevalence was found in a village on Aphaedo, Shinan-gun (49% egg positive rate); other areas showed 0.8-25.3% prevalence. Infected people complained of variable degrees of gastrointestinal troubles and indigestion. The infection can be diagnosed by recovery of eggs in the feces; however, an expert is needed to identify the eggs. Praziquantel, 10 mg/kg in single dose, is effective for treatment of human infections. Eating raw oysters in endemic areas should be avoided.
Gymnophalloides seoi; small intestine; histopathology; in situ postures of trematodes; villous atrophy; crypt hyperplasia; immunosuppressed mice
Borrelia garinii, a causative agent of Lyme borreliosis in Europe and Asia, is naturally maintained in marine and terrestrial enzootic cycles, which primarily involve birds, including seabirds and migratory passerines. These bird groups associate with, correspondingly, Ixodes uriae and Ixodes ricinus ticks, of which the latter species may bite and transmit the infection to humans. Studies of the overlap between these two natural cycles of B. garinii have been limited, in part due to the absence of representative collections of this spirochete's samples, as well as of the lack of reliable measure of the genetic heterogeneity of its strains. As a prerequisite for understanding the epidemiological correlates of the complex maintenance of B. garinii, the present study sought to assess the diversity and phylogenetic relationships of this species' strains from its natural hosts and patients with Lyme borreliosis from subarctic Eurasia. We used sequence typing of the partial rrs-rrl intergenic spacer (IGS) of archived and prospective samples of B. garinii from I. uriae ticks collected predominantly on Commander Islands in North Pacific, as well as on the islands in northern Sweden and arctic Norway. We also typed B. garinii samples from patients with Lyme borreliosis and I. ricinus ticks infesting migratory birds in southern Sweden, or found questing in selected sites on the islands in the Baltic Sea and Lithuania. Fifty-two (68%) of 77 B. garinii samples representing wide geographical range and associated with I. ricinus and infection of humans contributed 12 (60%) of total 20 identified IGS variants. In contrast, the remaining 25 (32%) samples recovered from I. uriae ticks from a few islands accounted for as many as 10 (50%) IGS types, suggesting greater local diversity of B. garinii maintained by seabirds and their ticks. Two IGS variants of the spirochete in common for both tick species were found in I. ricinus larvae from migratory birds, an indication that B. garinii strains are exchanged between different ecological niches. Notably, B. garinii variants associated with I. uriae ticks were found in each of the six clusters, representing two phylogenetic lineages of this species identified among the studied samples. Our findings suggest that B. garinii in subarctic Eurasia comprises two partially overlapping populations with different levels of genetic heterogeneity, presumably, due to distinctive selective pressures on the spirochete in its marine and terrestrial enzootic cycles.
Seasonal long-distance migration is likely to be experienced in a contrasted manner by juvenile, immature and adult birds, leading to variations in migratory routes, timing and behaviour. We provide the first analysis of late summer movements and autumn migration in these three life stages, which were tracked concurrently using satellite tags, geolocators or GPS recorders in a long-ranging migratory seabird, the Scopoli’s shearwater (formerly named Cory’s shearwater, Calonectrisdiomedea) breeding on two French Mediterranean islands. During the late breeding season, immatures foraged around their colony like breeding adults, but they were the only group showing potential prospecting movements around non-natal colonies. Global migration routes were broadly comparable between the two populations and the three life stages, with all individuals heading towards the Atlantic Ocean through the strait of Gibraltar and travelling along the West African coast, up to 8000 km from their colony. However, detailed comparison of timing, trajectory and oceanographic conditions experienced by the birds revealed remarkable age-related differences. Compared to adults and immatures, juveniles made a longer stop-over in the Balearic Sea (10 days vs 4 days in average), showed lower synchrony in crossing the Gibraltar strait, had more sinuous pathways and covered longer daily distances (240 km.d-1 vs 170 km.d-1). Analysis of oceanographic habitats along migratory routes revealed funnelling selection of habitat towards coastal and more productive waters with increasing age. Younger birds may have reduced navigational ability and learn progressively fine-scale migration routes towards the more profitable travelling and wintering areas. Our study demonstrates the importance of tracking long-lived species through the stages, to better understand migratory behavior and assess differential exposure to at-sea threats. Shared distribution between life stages and populations make Scopoli’s shearwaters particularly vulnerable to extreme mortality events in autumn and winter. Such knowledge is key for the conservation of critical marine habitats.
Free-ranging marine predators rarely search for prey along straight lines because dynamic ocean processes usually require complex search strategies. If linear movement patterns occur they are usually associated with travelling events or migratory behaviour. However, recent fine scale tracking of flying seabirds has revealed straight-line movements while birds followed fishing vessels. Unlike flying seabirds, penguins are not known to target and follow fishing vessels. Yet yellow-eyed penguins from New Zealand often exhibit directed movement patterns while searching for prey at the seafloor, a behaviour that seems to contradict common movement ecology theories. While deploying GPS dive loggers on yellow-eyed penguins from the Otago Peninsula we found that the birds frequently followed straight lines for several kilometres with little horizontal deviation. In several cases individuals swam up and down the same line, while some of the lines were followed by more than one individual. Using a remote operated vehicle (ROV) we found a highly visible furrow on the seafloor most likely caused by an otter board of a demersal fish trawl, which ran in a straight line exactly matching the trajectory of a recent line identified from penguin tracks. We noted high abundances of benthic scavengers associated with fisheries-related bottom disturbance. While our data demonstrate the acute way-finding capabilities of benthic foraging yellow-eyed penguins, they also highlight how hidden cascading effects of coastal fisheries may alter behaviour and potentially even population dynamics of marine predators, an often overlooked fact in the examination of fisheries’ impacts.
Numerous animals move vast distances through media with stochastic dynamic properties. Avian migrants must cope with variable wind speeds and directions en route, which potentially jeopardize fine-tuned migration routes and itineraries. We show how unpredictable winds affect flight times and the use of an intermediate staging site by red knots (Calidris canutus canutus) migrating from west Africa to the central north Siberian breeding areas via the German Wadden Sea. A dynamic migration model incorporating wind conditions during flight shows that flight durations between Mauritania and the Wadden Sea vary between 2 and 8 days. The number of birds counted at the only known intermediate staging site on the French Atlantic coast was strongly positively correlated with simulated flight times. In addition, particularly light-weight birds occurred at this location. These independent results support the idea that stochastic wind conditions are the main driver of the use of this intermediate stopover site as an emergency staging area. Because of the ubiquity of stochastically varying media, we expect such emergency habitats to exist in many other migratory systems, both airborne and oceanic. Our model provides a tool to quantify the effect of winds and currents en route.
Calidris canutus canutus; conservation; migration; modelling; stopover; wind assistance
Hundreds of thousands of seabirds are killed each year as bycatch in longline fisheries. Seabirds are predominantly caught during line setting but bycatch is generally recorded during line hauling, many hours after birds are caught. Bird loss during this interval may lead to inaccurate bycatch information. In this 15 year study, seabird bycatch was recorded during both line setting and line hauling from four fishing regions: Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, Coral Sea and central Pacific Ocean. Over 43,000 albatrosses, petrels and skuas representing over 25 species were counted during line setting of which almost 6,000 seabirds attempted to take the bait. Bait-taking interactions were placed into one of four categories. (i) The majority (57%) of bait-taking attempts were “unsuccessful” involving seabirds that did not take the bait nor get caught or hooked. (ii) One-third of attempts were “successful” with seabirds removing the bait while not getting caught. (iii) One-hundred and seventy-six seabirds (3% of attempts) were observed being “caught” during line setting, with three albatross species – Laysan (Phoebastria immutabilis), black-footed (P. nigripes) and black-browed (Thalassarche melanophrys)– dominating this category. However, of these, only 85 (48%) seabird carcasses were retrieved during line hauling. Most caught seabirds were hooked through the bill. (iv) The remainder of seabird-bait interactions (7%) was not clearly observed, but likely involved more “caught” seabirds. Bait taking attempts and percentage outcome (e.g. successful, caught) varied between seabird species and was not always related to species abundance around fishing vessels. Using only haul data to calculate seabird bycatch grossly underestimates actual bycatch levels, with the level of seabird bycatch from pelagic longline fishing possibly double what was previously thought.
One of the expected effects of the global warming is changing coastal habitats by accelerating the rate of sea level rise. Coastal habitats support large number of marine and wetland species including shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers and allies). In this study, we investigate how coastal habitats may be impacted by sea level rise in the Farasan Islands, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We use Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus – a common coastal breeding shorebird – as an ecological model species to predict the influence of sea level rise. We found that any rise of sea level is likely to inundate 11% of Kentish plover nests. In addition, 5% of the coastal areas of Farasan Islands, which support 26% of Kentish plover nests, will be flooded, if sea level rises by one metre. Our results are constrained by the availability of data on both elevation and bird populations. Therefore, we recommend follow-up studies to model the impacts of sea level rise using different elevation scenarios, and the establishment of a monitoring programme for breeding shorebirds and seabirds in Farasan Islands to assess the impact of climate change on their populations.
Remote sensing; Climate change; Sea level rise; Intertidal habitats; Kentish plover; Charadrius alexandrinus; Red Sea
During the last decade, new Neogene fossil assemblages from South America have revealed important clues about the evolution of seabird faunas in one of the major upwelling systems of the world: the Humboldt Current. However, most of this record comes from arid Northern Chile and Southern Peru and, in consequence, our knowledge of the evolutionary history of seabirds in the temperate transitional zone is negligible. A new Late Pliocene assemblage of fossil birds from the coastal locality of Horcon in Central Chile offers a unique opportunity to fill this gap.
Isolated bones of a medium-sized penguin are the most abundant bird remains. Morphological and cladistic analyses reveal that these specimens represent a new species of crested penguin, Eudyptes calauina sp. nov. Eudyptes is a penguin genus that inhabit temperate and subantarctic regions and currently absent in central Chile. Additionally, a partial skeleton of a small species of cormorant and a partial tarsometatarsus of a sooty shearwater have been identified.
The Horcon fossils suggest the existence of a mixed avifauna in central Chile during the Pliocene in concordance with the latitudinal thermal gradient. This resembles the current assemblages from the transitional zone, with the presence of species shared with Northern Chile and Southern Peru and a previously unrecorded penguin currently absent from the Humboldt System but present in the Magellanic region. Comparison of Pliocene seabird diversity across the Pacific coast of South America shows that the Horcon avifauna represents a distinctive assemblage linking the living faunas with the Late Miocene ones. A comparison with the fossil record near the Benguela Current (west coast of southern Africa) suggests that the thermic gradient could play an important role in the preservation of a higher diversity of cold/temperate seabirds in the Humboldt Current.
The Long-tailed Skua, a small (<300 g) Arctic-breeding predator and seabird, is a functionally very important component of the Arctic vertebrate communities in summer, but little is known about its migration and winter distribution. We used light-level geolocators to track the annual movements of eight adult birds breeding in north-east Greenland (n = 3) and Svalbard (n = 5). All birds wintered in the Southern Hemisphere (mean arrival-departure dates on wintering grounds: 24 October-21 March): five along the south-west coast of Africa (0–40°S, 0–15°E), in the productive Benguela upwelling, and three further south (30–40°S, 0–50°E), in an area extending into the south-west Indian Ocean. Different migratory routes and rates of travel were documented during post-breeding (345 km d−1 in late August-early September) and spring migrations (235 km d−1 in late April) when most birds used a more westerly flyway. Among the different staging areas, a large region off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland appears to be the most important. It was used in autumn by all but one of the tracked birds (from a few days to three weeks) and in spring by five out of eight birds (from one to more than six weeks). Two other staging sites, off the Iberian coast and near the Azores, were used by two birds in spring for five to six weeks. Over one year, individuals travelled between 43,900 and 54,200 km (36,600–45,700 when excluding staging periods) and went as far as 10,500–13,700 km (mean 12,800 km) from their breeding sites. This study has revealed important marine areas in both the south and north Atlantic Ocean. Sustainable management of these ocean basins will benefit Long-tailed Skuas as well as other trans-equatorial migrants from the Arctic.
Light pollution is increasing around the world and altering natural nightscapes with potential ecological and evolutionary consequences. A severe ecological perturbation caused by artificial lights is mass mortalities of organisms, including seabird fledglings that are attracted to lights at night on their first flights to the sea. Here, we report on the number of fledging short-tailed shearwaters Ardenna tenuirostris found grounded in evening and morning rescue patrols conducted at Phillip Island, Australia, during a 15-year period (1999–2013). We assessed factors affecting numbers of grounded birds and mortality including date, moon phase, wind direction and speed, number of visitors and holiday periods. We also tested experimentally if birds were attracted to lights by turning the lights off on a section of the road. Of 8871 fledglings found, 39% were dead or dying. This mortality rate was 4–8 times higher than reported elsewhere for other shearwater species, probably because searching for fledglings was part of our systematic rescue effort rather than the opportunistic rescue used elsewhere. Thus, it suggests that light-induced mortality of seabirds is usually underestimated. We rescued more birds (dead and alive) in peak fledging, moonless and windy nights. Mortality increased through the fledging period, in the mornings and with increased traffic on holiday periods. Turning the road lights off decreased the number of grounded birds (dead and alive). While moon, wind and time are uncontrolled natural constraints, we demonstrated that reduction of light pollution and better traffic management can mitigate artificial light-induced mortality.
The Florida red tide is a descriptive name for high concentrations of the harmful marine alga, Karenia brevis. Although most prevalent along the south-west Florida coast, periodic blooms have occurred throughout the entire US and Mexico Gulf coasts and the Atlantic coast to North Carolina. This dinoflagellate produces a suite of polyether neurotoxins, called brevetoxins, that cause severe impacts to natural resources, as well as public health. These naturally produced biotoxins may represent one of the most common chemical stressors impacting South Florida coastal and marine ecosystems. Impacts include massive fish kills, marine mammal, sea turtle and sea bird mortalities, benthic community die-off and public health effects from shellfish contamination and inhalation of air-borne toxins. The primary mode of action is binding to voltage-gated sodium channels causing depolarization of nerve cells, thus interfering with nerve transmission. Other effects include immune depression, bronchial constriction and haemolysis. Parent algal toxins are synthesized within the unicellular organism, others are produced as metabolic products. Recent studies into the composition of brevetoxins in cells, water, air and organisms have shown PbTx-2 to be the primary intracellular brevetoxin that is converted over time to PbTx-3 when the cells are ruptured, releasing extracellular brevetoxins into the environment. Brevetoxins become aerosolized by bubble-mediated transport of extracellular toxins, the composition of which varies depending on the composition in the source water. Bivalved molluscs rapidly accumulate brevetoxins as they filter feed on K. brevis cells. However, the parent algal toxins are rapidly metabolized to other compounds, some of which are responsible for neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP). These results provide new insight into the distribution, persistence and impacts of red tide toxins to south-west Florida ecosystems.
Brevetoxins; Biotoxins; PbTx; HABs; Florida red tide
Seabirds kept in care centers frequently show secondary lesions subsequent to detention conditions: this is the case with scabs. These scabs are very often looked upon as a cause for euthanasia, mainly after an ecological disaster, such as an oil spill, when the number of oiled birds is very large. Seaducks (Melanitta nigra, Melanitta fuscus, Somateria mollissima) were very numerous at the Veterinary School of Nantes after the wreck of the tanker Erika in December 1999. A protocol for the treatment of sternum wounds of seaducks is described. This protocol had a high success rate, with more than 65% of the treated Scoters being completely healed and more than 40% being either released or removed to Dutch care centers to await their molt.
The northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) is an abundant seabird whose Northeast Atlantic population has expanded dramatically over the past 100 years. Archaeological evidence suggests that Iceland and St Kilda were the ancestral populations from which essentially all other colonies in the region were derived. We collected samples from seven breeding colonies around the North Atlantic and used mitochondrial DNA analysis to ask whether population structure was present and, if so, where there was evidence about which colony was the dominant source population. Our data reveal a pattern consistent with isolation by distance, suggesting that, even though capable of flying great distances, most birds return to breed either at their own or neighbouring colonies. Interestingly, although most colonizers appear to have come originally from Iceland, our analysis also identifies St Kilda as a possible source. However, this secondary pattern appears to be largely an artefact, and can be attributed to the low haplotype diversity on St Kilda which yields a much clearer isolation by distance signal than that generated by birds dispersing from Iceland, where haplotype diversity is extremely high. Consequently, we urge caution when interpreting patterns in which populations vary greatly in the genetic diversity they harbour.
We undertook breeding surveys between 2010 and 2011 to assess the status of breeding birds on 16 islands in the northern Saudi Arabia. Sixteen bird species were found breeding at three different seasons; i.e. winter (Osprey), spring (Caspian and Saunder’s Terns), and summer (Lesser Crested, White-cheeked, Bridled Terns). It is postulated that food availability is an important factor influencing the breeding of seabirds in the northern Saudi Arabian Red Sea. Several species laid eggs earlier in northern parts of the Red Sea than in southern parts. The predicted increases in temperatures (Ta) could have a negative effect on species survival in the future, especially on those whose nests that are in the open. Finally, disturbance, predation and egg collection were probably the main immediate threats affecting the breeding seabird species in the northern Red Sea.
Seabirds; Breeding season; Northern Red Sea; Saudi Arabia
Although extensive data exist on avian influenza in wild birds in North America, limited information is available from elsewhere, including Europe. Here, molecular diagnostic tools were employed for high-throughput surveillance of migratory birds, as an alternative to classical labor-intensive methods of virus isolation in eggs. This study included 36,809 samples from 323 bird species belonging to 18 orders, of which only 25 species of three orders were positive for influenza A virus. Information on species, locations, and timing is provided for all samples tested. Seven previously unknown host species for avian influenza virus were identified: barnacle goose, bean goose, brent goose, pink-footed goose, bewick's swan, common gull, and guillemot. Dabbling ducks were more frequently infected than other ducks and Anseriformes; this distinction was probably related to bird behavior rather than population sizes. Waders did not appear to play a role in the epidemiology of avian influenza in Europe, in contrast to the Americas. The high virus prevalence in ducks in Europe in spring as compared with North America could explain the differences in virus–host ecology between these continents. Most influenza A virus subtypes were detected in ducks, but H13 and H16 subtypes were detected primarily in gulls. Viruses of subtype H6 were more promiscuous in host range than other subtypes. Temporal and spatial variation in influenza virus prevalence in wild birds was observed, with influenza A virus prevalence varying by sampling location; this is probably related to migration patterns from northeast to southwest and a higher prevalence farther north along the flyways. We discuss the ecology and epidemiology of avian influenza A virus in wild birds in relation to host ecology and compare our results with published studies. These data are useful for designing new surveillance programs and are particularly relevant due to increased interest in avian influenza in wild birds.
Significant gaps in our knowledge of the ecology of avian influenza in wild migratory birds have become apparent during recent outbreaks of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza, in particular in relation to the risk of virus spread by wild birds. An eight-year surveillance study, which included more than 36,000 wild birds tested for low pathogenic avian influenza, provides new information on host species, prevalence, and temporal and geographical variation of avian influenza in wild migratory birds in Europe. Dabbling ducks harbored nearly all known influenza virus subtypes, with the exception of H13 and H16, which were found primarily in gulls. In contrast to American studies, waders did not play a role in the epidemiology of avian influenza in Europe. This study provides important information on the ecology and epidemiology of avian influenza A virus and could assist in the design of new surveillance studies for high and low pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds.
Seabirds have been historically used to monitor environmental contamination. The aim of the present study was to test the suitability of a species belonging to the Procellariiformes group, the Manx shearwater, Puffinus puffinus, as a sentinel of environmental health, by determining contaminant levels (trace metals and organochlorine compounds) from carcass tissues and by isolating Vibrio spp. and Aeromonas spp. from live specimens. To this end, 35 Puffinus puffinus carcasses wrecked on the north-central coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and two carcasses recovered in Aracruz, on the coast of the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil, were sampled, and fragments of muscle and hepatic tissues were collected for contaminant analyses. Swabs from eleven birds found alive at the north-central coast of Rio de Janeiro were collected for isolation of the aforementioned bacteria.
The average concentration in dry weight (dw) of the trace metals were: mercury 7.19 mg kg-1(liver) and 1.23 mg kg-1 (muscle); selenium 34.66 mg kg-1 (liver) and 7.98 mg kg-1 (muscle); cadmium 22.33 mg kg-1 (liver) and 1.11 mg kg-1 (muscle); and lead, 0.1 mg kg--1 (liver) and 0.16 mg kg-1 (muscle). Organochlorine compounds were detected in all specimens, and hexachlorbiphenyls, heptachlorbiphenyls and DDTs presented the highest levels. Regarding microbiological contamination, bacteria from the Vibrio genus were isolated from 91% of the analyzed specimens. Vibrio harveyi was the predominant species. Bacteria from the Aeromonas genus were isolated from 18% of the specimens. Aeromonas sobria was the only identified species.
The results indicate that Puffinus puffinus seems to be a competent ocean health sentinel. Therefore, the monitoring of contaminant levels and the isolation of public health interest bacteria should proceed in order to consolidate this species importance as a sentinel.
Puffinus puffinus; Brazil; Sentinel; Metal; Organochlorines; Vibrio; Aeromonas
Rats have reached about 80% of the world's islands and are among the most successful invasive mammals. Rats are opportunistic predators that are notorious for their impact on a variety of animal and plant species. However, little documented evidence on the complexities of these interactions is available.In our study, we assessed the impact of black rats Rattus rattus introduced on a small uninhabited island with a relatively simple ecosystem, Surprise Island, New Caledonia. We also compared the diet of R. rattus in the presence and absence of breeding seabirds, assessing the dietary compensation for this potentially important food source. From 2002 to 2005, we used live trapping studies combined with stable isotope analysis and conventional diet analyses (direct observations, gut and faecal contents) to characterize the diet of rats.Our results suggest a heavy predatory impact on seabirds, which could constitute as much as 24% of the rat diet. Moreover, in the absence of birds, rats compensated marginally by preying more heavily on other components of their diet but mostly acquired a new resource. They shifted their diet by preying heavily upon another endangered species, the hatchlings of sea turtles Chelonia mydas, which could constitute the main resource in the diet of R. rattus in those periods. Abundance, body condition and distribution of the rats were consistent with heavy predation upon this additional resource.Synthesis and applications. In island ecosystems invasive rats prey mainly upon seabird eggs and chicks, thereby threatening their populations. Although rats are certainly capable of surviving on terrestrial foods outside the seabird nesting season, their ability to prey upon ephemeral but abundant resources, such as hatchling sea turtles, may contribute to maintaining their populations. This may explain their success on Surprise Island, an ecosystem of extreme conditions, and suggests that biologists and managers working with threatened species should be aware of the possibility of temporary diet shifts by introduced rodents that may cause unexpected heavy predation on these species. This dietary shift from one endangered taxa to another has major implications for the conservation of seabirds and sea turtles world-wide and more generally for the biodiversity of invaded insular communities.
alien invasive species; Chelonia mydas; conventional diet; Rattus rattus; stable isotopes; trophic shift
We assessed the blue mussel Mytilus edulis fishery management scheme introduced in 1994 in the Danish Wadden Sea that regulate fishing vessels, fishery quota, set-aside for mussel-eating birds and established zones closed to mussel fishery. The results showed (i) a reduction in the blue mussel biomass and mussel bed areas in zones closed to fishery, (ii) decrease in eiders Somateria mollissima numbers and increase or stable numbers for oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus and herring gull Larus argentatus and (iii) that energy estimations based on ecological food requirements for the mussel-eating birds should be at least three times larger, than the amount set-aside in the mussel management scheme. It is concluded that the mussel management scheme had been unable to stabilize or increase the blue mussel stocks and to secure stable or increasing numbers for all target bird species. Thus, it is recommended to revise the present blue mussel management scheme in the Danish Wadden Sea, to continue and improve mussel stock and bird surveys, and to consider novel studies of the mussel-eating birds’ energetics for improved set-aside estimates and future assessments.
Biomass; Ecological food demand; Eider; Favourable conservation status; Herring gull; Natura-2000; Oystercatcher; Wadden Sea
Marine-derived nutrients can increase primary productivity and change species composition of terrestrial plant communities in coastal and riverine ecosystems. We hypothesized that sea nutrient subsidies have a positive effect on nitrogen assimilation and seedling survival of non-nitrogen fixing species, increasing the relative abundance of non-nitrogen fixing species close to seashore. Moreover, we proposed that herbivores can alter the effects of nutrient supplementation by preferentially feeding on high nutrient plants. We studied the effects of nutrient fertilization by seabird guano on tree recruitment and how these effects can be modulated by herbivorous lizards in the coastal dry forests of northwestern Peru. We combined field studies, experiments and stable isotope analysis to study the response of the two most common tree species in these forests, the nitrogen-fixing Prosopis pallida and the non-nitrogen-fixing Capparis scabrida. We did not find differences in herbivore pressure along the sea-inland gradient. We found that the non-nitrogen fixing C. scabrida assimilates marine-derived nitrogen and is more abundant than P. pallida closer to guano-rich soil. We conclude that the input of marine-derived nitrogen through guano deposited by seabirds feeding in the Pacific Ocean affects the two dominant tree species of the coastal dry forests of northern Peru in contrasting ways. The non-nitrogen fixing species, C. scabrida may benefit from sea nutrient subsidies by incorporating guano-derived nitrogen into its foliar tissues, whereas P. pallida, capable of atmospheric fixation, does not.
Migratory waterfowl of the world are the natural reservoirs of influenza viruses of all known subtypes. However, it is unknown whether these waterfowl perpetuate highly pathogenic (HP) H5 and H7 avian influenza viruses. Here we report influenza virus surveillance from 2001 to 2006 in wild ducks in Alberta, Canada, and in shorebirds and gulls at Delaware Bay (New Jersey), United States, and examine the frequency of exchange of influenza viruses between the Eurasian and American virus clades, or superfamilies. Influenza viruses belonging to each of the subtypes H1 through H13 and N1 through N9 were detected in these waterfowl, but H14 and H15 were not found. Viruses of the HP Asian H5N1 subtypes were not detected, and serologic studies in adult mallard ducks provided no evidence of their circulation. The recently described H16 subtype of influenza viruses was detected in American shorebirds and gulls but not in ducks. We also found an unusual cluster of H7N3 influenza viruses in shorebirds and gulls that was able to replicate well in chickens and kill chicken embryos. Genetic analysis of 6,767 avian influenza gene segments and 248 complete avian influenza viruses supported the notion that the exchange of entire influenza viruses between the Eurasian and American clades does not occur frequently. Overall, the available evidence does not support the perpetuation of HP H5N1 influenza in migratory birds and suggests that the introduction of HP Asian H5N1 to the Americas by migratory birds is likely to be a rare event.
Influenza surveillance in wild migratory birds has been done at two sites in North America: 1) in Alberta, Canada, for the past 31 years, and 2) along Delaware Bay, United States, for the past 22 years. These studies support the concept that wild migratory birds are the reservoirs of all influenza A viruses and that the influenza viruses in the world can be divided into two distinct superfamilies, one in Eurasia and the other in the Americas. From time to time these viruses spread to domestic poultry and to humans and cause pandemics of disease. Many investigators have expanded these studies particularly in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The emergence of highly pathogenic H5N1 in Asia a decade ago and the continuing evolution and spread of these H5N1 viruses to the whole of Eurasia is a continuing problem for veterinary and human public health. The available evidence from Eurasia is that migratory birds can be infected and may be involved in local spread of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus. The question addressed in the present study is why the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus has not yet reached the Americas despite the overlap in migratory bird pathways, particularly in Alaska. Genomic analysis of influenza viruses from our repository failed to provide evidence of influenza viruses with their whole genome originating from Eurasia. However, we found occasional influenza viruses from North America with single or multiple genes that originated in Eurasia. Our interpretation is that while influenza viruses do exchange between the two hemispheres, this is a rare occurrence. Regardless, enhanced surveillance should be continued in the Americas in case this rare event occurs.
We present a Geographic Information System (GIS) tool, SeaMaST (Seabird Mapping and Sensitivity Tool), to provide evidence on the use of sea areas by seabirds and inshore waterbirds in English territorial waters, mapping their relative sensitivity to offshore wind farms. SeaMaST is a freely available evidence source for use by all connected to the offshore wind industry and will assist statutory agencies in assessing potential risks to seabird populations from planned developments. Data were compiled from offshore boat and aerial observer surveys spanning the period 1979–2012. The data were analysed using distance analysis and Density Surface Modelling to produce predicted bird densities across a grid covering English territorial waters at a resolution of 3 km×3 km. Coefficients of Variation were estimated for each grid cell density, as an indication of confidence in predictions. Offshore wind farm sensitivity scores were compiled for seabird species using English territorial waters. The comparative risks to each species of collision with turbines and displacement from operational turbines were reviewed and scored separately, and the scores were multiplied by the bird density estimates to produce relative sensitivity maps. The sensitivity maps reflected well the amassed distributions of the most sensitive species. SeaMaST is an important new tool for assessing potential impacts on seabird populations from offshore development at a time when multiple large areas of development are proposed which overlap with many seabird species’ ranges. It will inform marine spatial planning as well as identifying priority areas of sea usage by marine birds. Example SeaMaST outputs are presented.