Nav: Home

Rising sea temperatures threaten survival of juvenile albatross

June 18, 2018

Ecologists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the US and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) studied a population of black-browed albatross at Kerguelen Island, part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, where 200 breeding pairs have been monitored annually since 1979.

Reaching a wingspan of 2.5 metres, black-browed albatrosses breed on these sub-Antarctic islands during the austral summer, laying a single egg in October that will hatch in December. The chicks fledge in late March at a size similar to that of an adult.

Climate affects this seabird species in complex ways. In this study, the researchers developed a matrix population model that takes account of the combined effects of climate variables and functional traits in order to understand the entire life cycle and how population growth may be affected in light of a changing climate. Functional traits such as body size, timing of breeding, and foraging behaviour all have an impact on demographic traits such as survival and reproduction.

They found that changes in sea surface temperature during late winter cause the biggest variations in the population growth rate, through their impact on juvenile survival during their first year at sea. The effects of climatic conditions on seabirds generally occur indirectly.

"Sea surface temperature is widely used as an indicator of food availability for marine predators because warmer temperatures usually result in lower primary productivity in marine ecosystems, ultimately reducing the availability of prey", said Dr Stéphanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

She added: "As our oceans are projected to warm, fewer juvenile albatrosses will manage to survive and populations are expected to decline at a faster rate."

Among the functional traits, the researchers found that foraging behaviour during the pre-breeding period has a major impact on the population growth rate. For a population of individuals spending a high proportion of their time on the water, with few take-offs and landings (i.e. low foraging activity), the population growth rate is projected to decline up to 5.3% per year.

The results suggest that changes in population size and structure are driven by the combined effects of climate over various seasons, multiple functional traits and demographic processes across the full life cycle of black-browed albatross. The study also unravelled the important role of the juvenile phase and wintering season, two understudied parts of the life cycle of this migratory species.

"Albatrosses and other seabirds are long-lived predators that fly very long distances to forage at sea and nest on land. As a key indicator of ecosystem health, studying how seabirds fare in the face of climate change can help us predict the ecological impacts on the entire marine food web", concluded Dr Christophe Barbraud of CNRS, who co-authored this study.
-end-
Stephanie Jenouvrier, Marine Desprez, Rémi Fay, Christophe Barbraud, et al (2018) 'Climate change and functional traits affect population dynamics of a long-lived seabird' is published in Journal of Animal Ecology on 18 June 2018 and will be available here: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12827

British Ecological Society

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".