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
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.
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.
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.
biological invasions; Manila clam; Tapes philippinarum; climate change
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.
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
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
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.
Colonial breeding in birds is widely considered to benefit individuals through enhanced protection against predators or transfer of information about foraging sites. This view, however, is largely based on studies of seabirds carried out under favourable conditions. Recent breeding failures at many seabird colonies in the UK provide an opportunity to re-examine costs and benefits of coloniality under adverse conditions. Common guillemots Uria aalge are highly colonial cliff-nesting seabirds with very flexible parental care. Although the single chick is normally never left alone, more than 50 per cent of offspring were left unattended at a North Sea colony in 2007, apparently because poor conditions forced both parents to forage simultaneously. Contrary to expectation, unattended chicks were not killed by avian predators. Rather, although non-breeders and failed breeders sometimes provided alloparental care, unattended chicks were frequently attacked by breeding guillemots at neighbouring sites, often with fatal consequences. These results highlight a previously unsuspected trade-off between provisioning chicks and avoiding conspecific attacks, and indicate that understanding how environmental conditions affect social dynamics is crucial to interpreting costs and benefits of colonial breeding.
density dependence; social dynamics; chick neglect; infanticide; environmental change
We demonstrate a novel mechanism for prey detection in birds. Red knots (Calidris canutus), sandpipers that occur worldwide in coastal intertidal areas, are able to detect their favourite hard-shelled prey even when buried in sand beyond the reach of their bills. In operant conditioning experiments designed to find out whether the birds could tell buckets containing only wet sand from buckets containing hard objects in wet sand, we show that they detect the presence not only of deeply buried live bivalves but also of stones. The latter finding virtually excludes, under experimental conditions, prey-detection mechanisms based on vision, acoustics, smell, taste, vibrational signals emitted by prey, temperature gradients and electromagnetic fields. A failure to discriminate between food and non-food trays with dry sand indicates that pore water is involved. Based on the presence of large arrays of Herbst corpuscles (sensory organs that can measure the acceleration due to changes in pressure), the specifics of foraging technique and the characteristics of sediments on which red knots feed, we deduce that the sensory mechanism involves the perception of pressure gradients that are formed when bills probe in soft sediments in which inanimate objects block pore water flow. To our knowledge, this mechanism has not been described before. It is argued that repeated probing in soft, wet sediments allows red knots to induce a residual pressure build-up of sufficient strength to detect the pressure disturbance caused by a nearby object. The cyclic process of shaking loosely packed sand grains followed by gravitational settling into a closer packing, leads, owing to insufficient drainage of the sediment, to a locally increased pressure disturbance that is 'pumped up' at each shake.
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
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.
In a “wasp-waist” ecosystem, an intermediate trophic level is expected to control the abundance of predators through a bottom-up interaction and the abundance of prey through a top-down interaction. Previous studies suggest that the North Sea is mainly governed by bottom-up interactions driven by climate perturbations. However, few studies have investigated the importance of the intermediate trophic level occupied by small pelagic fishes.
We investigated the numeric interactions among 10 species of seabirds, two species of pelagic fish and four groups of zooplankton in the North Sea using decadal-scale databases. Linear models were used to relate the time series of zooplankton and seabirds to the time series of pelagic fish. Seabirds were positively related to herring (Clupea harengus), suggesting a bottom-up interaction. Two groups of zooplankton; Calanus helgolandicus and krill were negatively related to sprat (Sprattus sprattus) and herring respectively, suggesting top-down interactions. In addition, we found positive relationships among the zooplankton groups. Para/pseudocalanus was positively related to C. helgolandicus and C. finmarchicus was positively related to krill.
Our results indicate that herring was important in regulating the abundance of seabirds through a bottom-up interaction and that herring and sprat were important in regulating zooplankton through top-down interactions. We suggest that the positive relationships among zooplankton groups were due to selective foraging and switching in the two clupeid fishes. Our results suggest that “wasp-waist” interactions might be more important in the North Sea than previously anticipated. Fluctuations in the populations of pelagic fish due to harvesting and depletion of their predators might accordingly have profound consequences for ecosystem dynamics through trophic cascades.
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.
The failure of animals to fit all life-cycle stages into an annual cycle could reduce the chances of successful breeding. In some cases, non-optimal strategies will be adopted in order to maintain the life-cycle within the scope of one year. We studied trade-offs made by a High Arctic migrant shorebird, the red knot Calidris canutus islandica, between reproduction and wing feather molt carried out in the non-breeding period in the Dutch Wadden Sea. We compared primary molt duration between birds undertaking the full migratory and breeding schedule with birds that forego breeding because they are young or are maintained in captivity. Molt duration was ca. 71 days in breeding adults, which was achieved by an accelerated feather replacement strategy. Second-year birds and captive adults took ca. 22% and 27% longer, respectively. Second-year birds start molt in late June, more than four weeks before captive adults, and almost seven weeks before adults that return from breeding in late July–August. Adults finish molt in October when steeply increasing thermostatic costs and reductions in food availability occur. Primary molt duration was longer in female than in male knots (all ages), which was accordance with the somewhat larger body size of females. Since fast growth leads to lower quality feathers, the speedy wing molt shown by Arctic-breeding birds may represent a time constraint that is an unavoidable and routine cost of reproduction. So far it was hypothesized that only birds over 1 kg would have difficulty fitting molt within a year. Here we show that in birds an order of magnitude smaller, temporal imperatives may impose the adoption of non-optimal life-cycle routines in the entire actively breeding population.
A recent increase in sea temperature has established a new ecosystem dynamic regime in the North Sea. Climate-induced changes in decapods have played an important role. Here, we reveal a coincident increase in the abundance of swimming crabs and lesser black-backed gull colonies in the North Sea, both in time and in space. Swimming crabs are an important food source for lesser black-backed gulls during the breeding season. Inhabiting the land, but feeding mainly at sea, lesser black-backed gulls provide a link between marine and terrestrial ecosystems, since the bottom-up influence of allochthonous nutrient input from seabirds to coastal soils can structure the terrestrial food web. We, therefore, suggest that climate-driven changes in trophic interactions in the marine food web may also have ensuing ramifications for the coastal ecology of the North Sea.
climate change; food web; Larus fuscus graelsii; plankton; Polybius henslowii; sea temperature
Using combined miniature archival light and salt-water immersion loggers, we characterise the year-round individual at-sea movements of Europe's only critically endangered seabird, the Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, for the first time. Focusing on the non-breeding period, we show that all of the 26 breeding birds tracked from their breeding site on Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea successfully made a 2–4 month migration into the Atlantic Ocean, where they utilised well-defined core areas off Portuguese and French coasts. As well as identifying high-risk areas in the Atlantic, our results confirm that breeding birds spend most of the year concentrated around productive waters of the Iberian shelf in the western Mediterranean. Migration phenology appeared largely unrelated to the subsequent (distinctly synchronous) breeding attempt, suggesting that any carry-over effects were compensated for during a long pre-laying period spent over winter in the Mediterranean. Using the light and salt-water immersion data alone we were also able to characterise the pattern of pre-laying visits to the colony in considerable detail, demonstrating that breeding pairs appear to coordinate their over-day visits using a high frequency of night-time visits throughout the winter. Our study shows that geolocation technology is a valuable tool for assessing the spatial distribution of risks to this critically endangered species, and also provides a low-impact method for remotely observing the detailed behaviour of seabird species that may be sensitive to disturbance from traditional study methods.
Most animals, including birds, have cyclic life histories and numerous studies generally conducted on captive animals have shown that photoperiod is the main factor influencing this periodicity. Moon cycles can also affect periodic behavior of birds. Few studies have investigated the influence of these environmental cues in natural settings, and particularly in tropical areas where the change in photoperiod is slight and some bird species keep cyclic behaviors. Using miniaturized light sensors, we simultaneously investigated under natural conditions the influence of photoperiod and moon phases on the migration dates and at-sea activity of a tropical seabird species, the Barau's petrel, throughout its annual cycle. Firstly, we found that birds consistently started their pre- and post-breeding migrations at precise dates corresponding in both cases to a day-duration of 12.5 hours, suggesting a strong influence of the photoperiod in the regulation of migration behavior. We also found that mean population arrival dates to the colony changed from year to year and they were influenced by moon phases. Returns at their colonies occurred around the last full moon of the austral winter, suggesting that moon cycle is used by birds to synchronize their arrival. Secondly, variations of day-time activity were sinusoidal and correlated to seasonal changes of daylength. We thus hypothesize that the photoperiod could directly affect the behavior of the birds at sea. Night-time at-sea activity exhibited a clear cycle of 29.2 days, suggesting that nocturnal foraging was highly regulated by moon phase, particularly during the non-breeding season. To our knowledge, this is the first study to document a mixed regulation of the behavior of a wild bird by photoperiod and moon phases throughout its annual cycle.
An epidemiological survey was performed to know the infection status of oysters with Gymnophalloides seoi metacercariae in 7 islands of the West Sea known as the habitat of paleartic oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus osculans, in Korea. The surveyed areas were Aphaedo (Shinan-gun, Chollanam-do), Jangjado, Sonyudo and Munyodo (Okdo-myon, Kunsan-shi, Chollabuk-do), Yubudo (Changhang-up, Sochon-gun Chungchongnam-do), and Polumdo and Chumoondo (Sodo-myon, Kangwha-gun. Inchon-shi). The oysters collected from Aphaedo, the known endemic focus, were examined monthly from August 1995 to October 1996 for observation of any seasonal variation of the metacercarial density. The average metacercarial burden was 761-2,077 by month, but the seasonal variation of the metacercarial density was not obvious. A total of 54 metacercariae was detected in 63 oysters collected from Yubudo. Out of 30 oysters from Sonyudo, 25 (83.3%) were infected with 1-66 metacercariae (12.6 in average). All of 50 oysters (100%) from Munyodo were infected with 3-162 metacercariae (53.5 in average). Only 4 metacercariae were detected in 100 oysters from Chumoondo. However, no metacercariae were found in 55 oysters from Jangjado and 50 oysters from Polumdo. From the above results, it was confirmed that G. seoi is still highly prevalent in oysters from Aphaedo, and several islands of the West Sea known as the habitats of paleartic oystercatchers are new endemic areas of this fluke.
Gymnophalloides seoi; metacercariae; oyster; paleartic oystercatcher; Haematopus ostralegus osculans; Aphaedo; Sonyudo; Munyodo; Yubudo; Chumoondo
Animal-borne sensors enable researchers to remotely track animals, their physiological state and body movements. Accelerometers, for example, have been used in several studies to measure body movement, posture, and energy expenditure, although predominantly in marine animals. In many studies, behaviour is often inferred from expert interpretation of sensor data and not validated with direct observations of the animal. The aim of this study was to derive models that could be used to classify oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) behaviour based on sensor data. We measured the location, speed, and tri-axial acceleration of three oystercatchers using a flexible GPS tracking system and conducted simultaneous visual observations of the behaviour of these birds in their natural environment. We then used these data to develop three supervised classification trees of behaviour and finally applied one of the models to calculate time-activity budgets. The model based on accelerometer data developed to classify three behaviours (fly, terrestrial locomotion, and no movement) was much more accurate (cross-validation error = 0.14) than the model based on GPS-speed alone (cross-validation error = 0.35). The most parsimonious acceleration model designed to classify eight behaviours could distinguish five: fly, forage, body care, stand, and sit (cross-validation error = 0.28); other behaviours that were observed, such as aggression or handling of prey, could not be distinguished. Model limitations and potential improvements are discussed. The workflow design presented in this study can facilitate model development, be adapted to a wide range of species, and together with the appropriate measurements, can foster the study of behaviour and habitat use of free living animals throughout their annual routine.
Although bycatch of industrial-scale fisheries can cause declines in migratory megafauna including seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, the impacts of small-scale fisheries have been largely overlooked. Small-scale fisheries occur in coastal waters worldwide, employing over 99% of the world's 51 million fishers. New telemetry data reveal that migratory megafauna frequent coastal habitats well within the range of small-scale fisheries, potentially producing high bycatch. These fisheries occur primarily in developing nations, and their documentation and management are limited or non-existent, precluding evaluation of their impacts on non-target megafauna.
30 North Pacific loggerhead turtles that we satellite-tracked from 1996–2005 ranged oceanwide, but juveniles spent 70% of their time at a high use area coincident with small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur, Mexico (BCS). We assessed loggerhead bycatch mortality in this area by partnering with local fishers to 1) observe two small-scale fleets that operated closest to the high use area and 2) through shoreline surveys for discarded carcasses. Minimum annual bycatch mortality in just these two fleets at the high use area exceeded 1000 loggerheads year−1, rivaling that of oceanwide industrial-scale fisheries, and threatening the persistence of this critically endangered population. As a result of fisher participation in this study and a bycatch awareness campaign, a consortium of local fishers and other citizens are working to eliminate their bycatch and to establish a national loggerhead refuge.
Because of the overlap of ubiquitous small-scale fisheries with newly documented high-use areas in coastal waters worldwide, our case study suggests that small-scale fisheries may be among the greatest current threats to non-target megafauna. Future research is urgently needed to quantify small-scale fisheries bycatch worldwide. Localizing coastal high use areas and mitigating bycatch in partnership with small-scale fishers may provide a crucial solution toward ensuring the persistence of vulnerable megafauna.
There is a widespread concern about the direct and indirect effects of industrial fisheries; this concern is particularly pertinent for so-called “marine protected areas” (MPAs), which should be safeguarded by national and international law. The intertidal flats of the Dutch Wadden Sea are a State Nature Monument and are protected under the Ramsar convention and the European Union's Habitat and Birds Directives. Until 2004, the Dutch government granted permission for ~75% of the intertidal flats to be exploited by mechanical dredgers for edible cockles (Cerastoderma edule). Here we show that dredged areas belonged to the limited area of intertidal flats that were of sufficient quality for red knots (Calidris canutus islandica), a long-distance migrant molluscivore specialist, to feed. Dredging led to relatively lower settlement rates of cockles and also reduced their quality (ratio of flesh to shell). From 1998 to 2002, red knots increased gizzard mass to compensate for a gradual loss in shellfish quality, but this compensation was not sufficient and led to decreases in local survival. Therefore, the gradual destruction of the necessary intertidal resources explains both the loss of red knots from the Dutch Wadden Sea and the decline of the European wintering population. This study shows that MPAs that do not provide adequate protection from fishing may fail in their conservation objectives.
Shellfish extraction in a marine reserve so reduced food quality for red knots that they could no longer physiologically adapt to the changes, leading to the decline of this fully protected shorebird.
We evaluate the hypothesis that Atlantic cod larvae are passively transported by sea currents from off-shore spawning areas to settle in coastal waters, a hypothesis which has recently gained support from genetic analysis of cod in the North Sea–Skagerrak area. Such larval transport has been suggested to be an important mechanism behind the commonly observed low spatial genetic differentiation in many marine organisms. Here, we apply an ARMAX(2,2) model for juvenile abundance and use long-term monitoring data from the Skagerrak coast, constituting 54 continuous annual series from 1945 to 1997. Analysing the model, we find that the product of the size of the North Sea breeding stock and the strength of the net inflow of North Sea waters had a significant, positive effect on the abundance of coastal juvenile cod. The peak effect occurs during the month of March, just after spawning, when eggs and larvae remain pelagic and sensitive to currents. In contrast, we find no evidence of any direct effect of the North Sea spawning stock alone. Our analyses indicate that 15–20 000 0-group larvae from the North Sea reach each fjord per year, on average. This corresponds to about 1–10% of the total 0-group population in each fjord on average. These findings clearly demonstrate a direct link between larval drift and gene flow in the marine environment.
genetic differentiation; time series modelling; ecological dynamics; larval drift; Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua)
Understanding seabird habitat preferences is critical to future wildlife conservation and threat mitigation in California. The objective of this study was to investigate drivers of seabird habitat selection within the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries to identify areas for targeted conservation planning. We used seabird abundance data collected by the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies Program (ACCESS) from 2004–2011. We used zero-inflated negative binomial regression to model species abundance and distribution as a function of near surface ocean water properties, distances to geographic features and oceanographic climate indices to identify patterns in foraging habitat selection. We evaluated seasonal, inter-annual and species-specific variability of at-sea distributions for the five most abundant seabirds nesting on the Farallon Islands: western gull (Larus occidentalis), common murre (Uria aalge), Cassin’s auklet (Ptychorampus aleuticus), rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) and Brandt’s cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus). The waters in the vicinity of Cordell Bank and the continental shelf east of the Farallon Islands emerged as persistent and highly selected foraging areas across all species. Further, we conducted a spatial prioritization exercise to optimize seabird conservation areas with and without considering impacts of current human activities. We explored three conservation scenarios where 10, 30 and 50 percent of highly selected, species-specific foraging areas would be conserved. We compared and contrasted results in relation to existing marine protected areas (MPAs) and the future alternative energy footprint identified by the California Ocean Uses Atlas. Our results show that the majority of highly selected seabird habitat lies outside of state MPAs where threats from shipping, oil spills, and offshore energy development remain. This analysis accentuates the need for innovative marine spatial planning efforts and provides a foundation on which to build more comprehensive zoning and management in California’s National Marine Sanctuaries.
Climate influences the dynamics of natural populations by direct effects over habitat quality but also modulating the phenotypic responses of organisms’ life-history traits. These responses may be different in males and females, particularly in dimorphic species, due to sex-specific requirements or constraints. Here, in a coastal seabird, the European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), we studied the influence of climate (North Atlantic Oscillation, NAO; Sea Surface Temperature, SST) on two sex-related population parameters: fledgling sex ratio and sex-specific dispersal. We found that fledgling sex ratio was female skewed in NAO-positive years and male skewed in NAO-negative years. Accordingly, females dispersed a longer distance in NAO-positive years when females were overproduced, and on the contrary, males dispersed more in NAO-negative years. Overall, our findings provide rare evidence on vertebrates with genetic sex determination that climate conditions may govern population dynamics by affecting sex-specific density and dispersal.