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1.  Molecular Epidemiology and Characterization of Campylobacter spp. Isolated from Wild Bird Populations in Northern England▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(10):3007-3015.
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).
PMCID: PMC2681652  PMID: 19286781
2.  Environmental Predictors of Seabird Wrecks in a Tropical Coastal Area 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(12):e0168717.
Beached bird surveys have been widely used to monitor the impact of oil pollution in the oceans. However, separating the combined effects of oil pollution, environmental variables and methodological aspects of beach monitoring on seabird stranding patterns is a challenging task. The effects of a comprehensive set of oceanographic and climatic variables and oil pollution on seabird strandings in a tropical area of Brazil were investigated herein, using two robust and innovative methods: Generalized Linear Mixed Models and Structural Equation Modeling. We assessed strandings of four resident seabird species along 480 km of beaches divided into 11 sampling areas, between November 2010 and September 2013. We found that increasing the distance from the nearest breeding island reduce the seabird stranding events. Storm activity and biological productivity were the most important factors affecting the stranding events of brown boobies Sula leucogaster, Cabot’s terns Thalasseus acuflavidus and kelp gulls Larus dominicanus. These species are also indirectly affected by warm tropical waters, which reduce chlorophyll-a concentrations. Beach surveys are, thus, useful to investigate the mortality rates of resident species near breeding sites, where individuals are more abundant and exposed to local factors associated with at-sea mortality. In contrast, conservation actions and monitoring programs for far-ranging seabird species are needed in more distant foraging areas. Furthermore, beach monitoring programs investigating the impact of oil pollution on seabirds need to account for the effects of environmental factors on stranding patterns. The present study also demonstrated that seabirds inhabiting tropical coastal waters are sensitive to climate conditions such as adverse weather, which are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in next decades.
PMCID: PMC5161483  PMID: 27992578
3.  Contaminants and sea ducks in Alaska and the circumpolar region. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1995;103(Suppl 4):41-49.
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.
PMCID: PMC1519270  PMID: 7556023
4.  A new duck circovirus sequence, detected in velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca) supports great diversity among this species of virus 
Virology Journal  2015;12:121.
The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of circoviruses in wild bird populations, in Poland. Circoviruses possess immuno-suppressive properties and might interfere with the health of wild birds.
83 birds, which belonged to 23 species, were tested with broad-range, nested PCR. The obtained PCR products were sequenced and new primers designed, to analyse the full-length, viral genome. A phylogenetic analysis was conducted, to find any relationship to known circoviruses.
The circovirus DNA sequence was found in 4 birds. All samples originated from the velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca) a marine duck from the Merginae sub-family. Birds which tested positive for the circovirus were found dead in fishing nets, off the Baltic coast. During post-mortem examination, carcasses of two of the scoters showed only light emaciation, while the two other birds appeared healthy. The obtained, full-length, circovirus sequence revealed 1,988 nucleotides and the presence of typical features (i.e. Cap, Rep and ORF3). Nucleotide similarity to other duck circoviruses was 84 to 86 %. Phylogenetic analysis of the complete genome and cap gene, indicated that the new circovirus is related to known duck circoviruses, especially to sub-types sometimes referred to as duck circovirus genotype 1, but not genotype 2.
In this study, we have reported a new duck circovirus sequence detected in the velvet scoter, a species of marine duck. Sequence comparison and phylogenetic analysis of the new virus sequence support previous reports that duck circovirus (DuCV) is a species with a high degree of diversity. The viral sequence obtained from the velvet scoter suggests that DuCV may infect birds from the Anatinae sub-family. More studies are needed to prove if the velvet scoter and other marine ducks act as a reservoir for DuCV.
PMCID: PMC4528844  PMID: 26253134
5.  A review of Gymnophalloides seoi (Digenea: Gymnophallidae) and human infections in the Republic of Korea 
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.
PMCID: PMC2721100  PMID: 11441510
Gymnophalloides seoi; small intestine; histopathology; in situ postures of trematodes; villous atrophy; crypt hyperplasia; immunosuppressed mice
6.  Properties of Blood, Porphyrins, and Exposure to Legacy and Emerging Persistent Organic Pollutants in Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) Overwintering on the South Coast of British Columbia, Canada 
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.
PMCID: PMC2908456  PMID: 20204344
7.  Olfaction and topography, but not magnetic cues, control navigation in a pelagic seabird: displacements with shearwaters in the Mediterranean Sea 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:16486.
Pelagic seabirds wander the open oceans then return accurately to their habitual nest-sites. We investigated the effects of sensory manipulation on oceanic navigation in Scopoli’s shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) breeding at Pianosa island (Italy), by displacing them 400 km from their colony and tracking them. A recent experiment on Atlantic shearwaters (Cory’s shearwater, Calonectris borealis) breeding in the Azores indicated a crucial role of olfaction over the open ocean, but left open the question of whether birds might navigate by topographical landmark cues when available. Our experiment was conducted in the Mediterranean sea, where the availability of topographical cues may provide an alternative navigational mechanism for homing. Magnetically disturbed shearwaters and control birds oriented homeward even when the coast was not visible and rapidly homed. Anosmic shearwaters oriented in a direction significantly different from the home direction when in open sea. After having approached a coastline their flight path changed from convoluted to homeward oriented, so that most of them eventually reached home. Beside confirming that magnetic cues appear unimportant for oceanic navigation by seabirds, our results support the crucial role of olfactory cues for birds’ navigation and reveal that anosmic shearwaters are able to home eventually by following coastal features.
PMCID: PMC4637929  PMID: 26548946
8.  Stochastic atmospheric assistance and the use of emergency staging sites by migrants 
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.
PMCID: PMC2871836  PMID: 20071381
Calidris canutus canutus; conservation; migration; modelling; stopover; wind assistance
9.  Protecting Persistent Dynamic Oceanographic Features: Transboundary Conservation Efforts Are Needed for the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e35728.
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.
PMCID: PMC3349676  PMID: 22590510
10.  Phylogenetic Analysis Supports Horizontal Transmission as a Driving Force of the Spread of Avian Bornaviruses 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0160936.
Avian bornaviruses are a genetically diverse group of viruses initially discovered in 2008. They are known to infect several avian orders. Bornaviruses of parrots and related species (Psittaciformes) are causative agents of proventricular dilatation disease, a chronic and often fatal neurologic disease widely distributed in captive psittacine populations. Although knowledge has considerably increased in the past years, many aspects of the biology of avian bornaviruses are still undiscovered. In particular, the precise way of transmission remains unknown.
Aims and Methods
In order to collect further information on the epidemiology of bornavirus infections in birds we collected samples from captive and free-ranging aquatic birds (n = 738) and Passeriformes (n = 145) in Germany and tested them for the presence of bornaviruses by PCR assays covering a broad range of known bornaviruses. We detected aquatic bird bornavirus 1 (ABBV-1) in three out of 73 sampled free-ranging mute swans (Cygnus olor) and one out of 282 free-ranging Eurasian oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus). Canary bornavirus 1 (CnBV-1), CnBV-2 and CnBV-3 were detected in four, six and one out of 48 captive common canaries (Serinus canaria forma domestica), respectively. In addition, samples originating from 49 bornavirus-positive captive Psittaciformes were used for determination of parrot bornavirus 2 (PaBV-2) and PaBV-4 sequences. Bornavirus sequences compiled during this study were used for phylogenetic analysis together with all related sequences available in GenBank.
Results of the Study
Within ABBV-1, PaBV-2 and PaBV-4, identical or genetically closely related bornavirus sequences were found in parallel in various different avian species, suggesting that inter-species transmission is frequent relative to the overall transmission of these viruses. Our results argue for an important role of horizontal transmission, but do not exclude the additional possibility of vertical transmission. Furthermore we defined clearly separated sequence clusters within several avian bornaviruses, providing a basis for an improved interpretation of transmission events within and between wild bird populations and captive bird collections.
PMCID: PMC4990238  PMID: 27537693
11.  Seabird Bycatch in Pelagic Longline Fisheries Is Grossly Underestimated when Using Only Haul Data 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12491.
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.
PMCID: PMC2930863  PMID: 20824163
12.  Integrating spatial data and shorebird nesting locations to predict the potential future impact of global warming on coastal habitats: A case study on Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia 
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.
PMCID: PMC3730933  PMID: 23961191
Remote sensing; Climate change; Sea level rise; Intertidal habitats; Kentish plover; Charadrius alexandrinus; Red Sea
13.  Complex Population Structure of Lyme Borreliosis Group Spirochete Borrelia garinii in Subarctic Eurasia 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5841.
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.
PMCID: PMC2688082  PMID: 19513109
14.  The Evolution of Seabirds in the Humboldt Current: New Clues from the Pliocene of Central Chile 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90043.
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.
Principal Findings
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.
PMCID: PMC3951197  PMID: 24621560
15.  Chlamydiaceae in North Atlantic Seabirds Admitted to a Wildlife Rescue Center in Western France 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2015;81(14):4581-4590.
Birds are the primary hosts of Chlamydia psittaci, a bacterium that can cause avian chlamydiosis in birds and psittacosis in humans. Wild seabirds are frequently admitted to wildlife rescue centers (WRC) at European Atlantic coasts, for example, in connection with oil spills. To investigate the extent of chlamydial shedding by these birds and the resulting risk for animals in care and the medical staff, seabirds from a French WRC were sampled from May 2011 to January 2014. By use of a quantitative PCR (qPCR), 195 seabirds belonging to 4 orders, 5 families and 13 species were examined, of which 18.5% proved to be Chlamydiaceae positive. The highest prevalence of shedders was found in northern gannets (Morus bassanus) (41%), followed by European herring gulls (Larus argentatus) (14%) and common murres (Uria aalge) (7%). Molecular characterization and phylogenetic analysis of qPCR-positive northern gannet samples revealed two variants of a strain closely related to C. psittaci. In European herring gulls and in one common murre, strains showing high sequence similarity to the atypical Chlamydiaceae-like C122 previously found in gulls were detected. Our study shows that seabirds from the northeastern Atlantic Ocean carry several chlamydial organisms, including C. psittaci-related strains. The staff in WRCs should take protective measures, particularly in the case of mass admissions of seabirds.
PMCID: PMC4551190  PMID: 25934619
16.  Characterization of 241Pu occurrence, distribution, and bioaccumulation in seabirds from northern Eurasia 
The paper presents unique data of plutonium 241Pu study in seabirds from northern Eurasia, permanently or temporally living at the southern Baltic Sea coast. Together, ten marine birds species were examined, as follows: three species that permanently reside at the southern Baltic, four species of wintering birds, and three species of migrating birds; 366 samples were analyzed. The obtained results indicated plutonium was non-uniformly distributed in organs and tissues of analyzed seabirds. The highest 241Pu content was found in the digestion organs and feathers, the lowest in muscles. Also, the internal radiation doses from 241Pu were evaluated.
PMCID: PMC4432091  PMID: 25529493
Plutonium 241Pu; 241Pu/239+240Pu activity ratio; Seabirds; Baltic Sea; Eurasia; Bioaccumulation
17.  Tracking through Life Stages: Adult, Immature and Juvenile Autumn Migration in a Long-Lived Seabird 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72713.
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.
PMCID: PMC3745401  PMID: 23977344
18.  Unravelling dispersal patterns in an expanding population of a highly mobile seabird, the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis). 
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.
PMCID: PMC1691321  PMID: 12803914
19.  Status of breeding seabirds on the Northern Islands of the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia 
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.
PMCID: PMC4061459  PMID: 24955009
Seabirds; Breeding season; Northern Red Sea; Saudi Arabia
20.  Assessment of Blue Mussel Mytilus edulis Fisheries and Waterbird Shellfish-predator Management in the Danish Wadden Sea 
Ambio  2010;39(7):476-485.
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.
PMCID: PMC3357668  PMID: 21090002
Biomass; Ecological food demand; Eider; Favourable conservation status; Herring gull; Natura-2000; Oystercatcher; Wadden Sea
21.  The Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) as a candidate sentinel of Atlantic Ocean health 
Aquatic Biosystems  2014;10:6.
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.
PMCID: PMC4154383  PMID: 25191536
Puffinus puffinus; Brazil; Sentinel; Metal; Organochlorines; Vibrio; Aeromonas
22.  Predictive Modelling to Identify Near-Shore, Fine-Scale Seabird Distributions during the Breeding Season 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(3):e0150592.
During the breeding season seabirds are constrained to coastal areas and are restricted in their movements, spending much of their time in near-shore waters either loafing or foraging. However, in using these areas they may be threatened by anthropogenic activities such as fishing, watersports and coastal developments including marine renewable energy installations. Although many studies describe large scale interactions between seabirds and the environment, the drivers behind near-shore, fine-scale distributions are not well understood. For example, Alderney is an important breeding ground for many species of seabird and has a diversity of human uses of the marine environment, thus providing an ideal location to investigate the near-shore fine-scale interactions between seabirds and the environment. We used vantage point observations of seabird distribution, collected during the 2013 breeding season in order to identify and quantify some of the environmental variables affecting the near-shore, fine-scale distribution of seabirds in Alderney’s coastal waters. We validate the models with observation data collected in 2014 and show that water depth, distance to the intertidal zone, and distance to the nearest seabird nest are key predictors in the distribution of Alderney’s seabirds. AUC values for each species suggest that these models perform well, although the model for shags performed better than those for auks and gulls. While further unexplained underlying localised variation in the environmental conditions will undoubtedly effect the fine-scale distribution of seabirds in near-shore waters we demonstrate the potential of this approach in marine planning and decision making.
PMCID: PMC4816348  PMID: 27031616
23.  Mapping Seabird Sensitivity to Offshore Wind Farms 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106366.
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.
PMCID: PMC4161323  PMID: 25210739
24.  Benefits to shorebirds from invasion of a non-native shellfish 
Introductions of non-native species are seen as major threats to ecosystem function and biodiversity. However, invasions of aquatic habitats by non-native species are known to benefit generalist consumers that exhibit dietary switches and prey upon the exotic species in addition to or in preference to native ones. There is, however, little knowledge concerning the population-level implications of such dietary changes. Here, we show that the introduction of the Manila clam Tapes philippinarum into European coastal waters has presented the Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus ostralegus with a new food resource and resulted in a previously unknown predator–prey interaction between these species. We demonstrate, with an individuals-based simulation model, that the presence of this non-native shellfish, even at the current low density, has reduced the predicted over-winter mortality of oystercatchers at one recently invaded site. Further increases in clam population density are predicted to have even more pronounced effects on the density dependence of oystercatcher over-winter mortality. These results suggest that if the Manila clam were to spread around European coastal waters, a process which is likely to be facilitated by global warming, this could have considerable benefits for many shellfish-eating shorebird populations.
PMCID: PMC2176204  PMID: 17412684
biological invasions; Manila clam; Tapes philippinarum; climate change
25.  Moving polewards in winter: a recent change in the migratory strategy of a pelagic seabird? 
Frontiers in Zoology  2010;7:15.
During the non-breeding period, many birds migrate to milder areas, found closer to the equator than their breeding sites. Opposite movements are very rare. In the Southern Ocean, the abundance of 13C declines markedly with more southern latitude, providing a characteristic 13C isoscape. This can be used as a tracer for the movement of seabirds between breeding and inter-breeding areas, by comparing stable isotope ratios of feathers grown at different times of the year.
We studied seasonal movements of Thin-billed prions (Aves, Procellariiformes), breeding at the Subantarctic Falkland/Malvinas Islands, compared with those of Wilson's storm-petrels breeding in the Antarctic South Shetland Islands. The two species showed opposite migratory movements. While Wilson's storm-petrels moved to warmer waters north of the Drake Passage in winter, Thin-billed prions showed a reversed movement towards more polar waters. Carbon stable isotope ratios in recent and historical feathers indicated that poleward winter movements of Thin-billed prions were less common historically (45% in 1913-1915), and have only recently become dominant (92% in 2003-2005), apparently in response to warming sea temperatures.
This study shows that pelagic seabirds can rapidly change migration strategies within populations, including migration towards more poleward waters in winter.
PMCID: PMC2885383  PMID: 20482826

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