Black-legged kittiwakes as indicators of environmental change in the North Sea

Evidence from long-term studies

S. Wanless, M. Frederiksen, F. Daunt, B. E. Scott, M. P. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Top predators, particularly seabirds, have repeatedly been suggested as indicators of marine ecosystem status. One region currently under pressure from human fisheries and climate change is the North Sea. Standardized seabird monitoring data have been collected on the Isle of May, an important seabird colony in the northwestern North Sea, over the last 10-20 years. Over this period oceanographic conditions have varied markedly, and between 1990 and 1999 a major industrial fishery for sandlance (Ammodytes marinus), the main prey of most seabird species, was prosecuted nearby. Sandlance fishing grounds close to seabird colonies down the east coast of the UK were closed in 2000 in an attempt to improve foraging opportunities for breeding seabirds, particularly black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). Initially this closure seemed to be beneficial for kittiwakes with breeding success recovering to pre-fishery levels. However, despite the ban continuing, kittiwakes and many other seabird species in the North Sea suffered severe breeding failures in 2004. In this paper, we test the predictive power of four previously established correlations between kittiwake breeding success and climatic/trophic variables to explain the observed breeding success at the Isle of May in 2004. During the breeding season, kittiwakes at this colony switch from feeding on 1+ group to 0 group sandlance, and results up until 2003 indicated that availability of both age classes had a positive effect on kittiwake breeding success. The low breeding success of kittiwakes in 2004 was consistent with the late appearance and small body size of 0 group sandlance, but at odds with the two variables likely to operate via I group availability (lagged winter sea surface temperature and larval sandlance cohort strength in 2003). The reason for the discrepancy is currently unknown, but analysis of I group sandlance body composition indicated that lipid content in 2004 was extremely low, and thus fish eaten by kittiwakes during pre-breeding and early incubation were likely to be of poor quality. Monitoring of reproductive success of kittiwakes, although useful, was clearly not sufficient to tease apart the complex causation underlying the 2004 event. Monitoring programs such as this, therefore, need to be complemented by detailed research to identify the mechanisms involved, and to attribute and predict the effects of natural and human-induced environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-38
Number of pages9
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Volume72
Issue number1
Early online date13 Oct 2006
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007

Keywords

  • breeding failures
  • climate change
  • industrial fisheries
  • monitoring programs
  • sandlance
  • seabirds
  • rissa-tridactyla
  • climate-change
  • breeding success
  • plankton
  • diet
  • ecology
  • fish
  • variability
  • recruitment
  • performance

Cite this

Black-legged kittiwakes as indicators of environmental change in the North Sea : Evidence from long-term studies. / Wanless, S.; Frederiksen, M.; Daunt, F.; Scott, B. E.; Harris, M. P.

In: Progress in Oceanography, Vol. 72, No. 1, 01.2007, p. 30-38.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Wanless, S. ; Frederiksen, M. ; Daunt, F. ; Scott, B. E. ; Harris, M. P. / Black-legged kittiwakes as indicators of environmental change in the North Sea : Evidence from long-term studies. In: Progress in Oceanography. 2007 ; Vol. 72, No. 1. pp. 30-38.
@article{26d2547dfa384311b2642638f94bc0ee,
title = "Black-legged kittiwakes as indicators of environmental change in the North Sea: Evidence from long-term studies",
abstract = "Top predators, particularly seabirds, have repeatedly been suggested as indicators of marine ecosystem status. One region currently under pressure from human fisheries and climate change is the North Sea. Standardized seabird monitoring data have been collected on the Isle of May, an important seabird colony in the northwestern North Sea, over the last 10-20 years. Over this period oceanographic conditions have varied markedly, and between 1990 and 1999 a major industrial fishery for sandlance (Ammodytes marinus), the main prey of most seabird species, was prosecuted nearby. Sandlance fishing grounds close to seabird colonies down the east coast of the UK were closed in 2000 in an attempt to improve foraging opportunities for breeding seabirds, particularly black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). Initially this closure seemed to be beneficial for kittiwakes with breeding success recovering to pre-fishery levels. However, despite the ban continuing, kittiwakes and many other seabird species in the North Sea suffered severe breeding failures in 2004. In this paper, we test the predictive power of four previously established correlations between kittiwake breeding success and climatic/trophic variables to explain the observed breeding success at the Isle of May in 2004. During the breeding season, kittiwakes at this colony switch from feeding on 1+ group to 0 group sandlance, and results up until 2003 indicated that availability of both age classes had a positive effect on kittiwake breeding success. The low breeding success of kittiwakes in 2004 was consistent with the late appearance and small body size of 0 group sandlance, but at odds with the two variables likely to operate via I group availability (lagged winter sea surface temperature and larval sandlance cohort strength in 2003). The reason for the discrepancy is currently unknown, but analysis of I group sandlance body composition indicated that lipid content in 2004 was extremely low, and thus fish eaten by kittiwakes during pre-breeding and early incubation were likely to be of poor quality. Monitoring of reproductive success of kittiwakes, although useful, was clearly not sufficient to tease apart the complex causation underlying the 2004 event. Monitoring programs such as this, therefore, need to be complemented by detailed research to identify the mechanisms involved, and to attribute and predict the effects of natural and human-induced environmental change.",
keywords = "breeding failures, climate change, industrial fisheries, monitoring programs, sandlance, seabirds, rissa-tridactyla, climate-change, breeding success, plankton, diet, ecology, fish, variability, recruitment, performance",
author = "S. Wanless and M. Frederiksen and F. Daunt and Scott, {B. E.} and Harris, {M. P.}",
year = "2007",
month = "1",
doi = "10.1016/j.pocean.2006.07.007",
language = "English",
volume = "72",
pages = "30--38",
journal = "Progress in Oceanography",
issn = "0079-6611",
publisher = "Elsevier Limited",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Black-legged kittiwakes as indicators of environmental change in the North Sea

T2 - Evidence from long-term studies

AU - Wanless, S.

AU - Frederiksen, M.

AU - Daunt, F.

AU - Scott, B. E.

AU - Harris, M. P.

PY - 2007/1

Y1 - 2007/1

N2 - Top predators, particularly seabirds, have repeatedly been suggested as indicators of marine ecosystem status. One region currently under pressure from human fisheries and climate change is the North Sea. Standardized seabird monitoring data have been collected on the Isle of May, an important seabird colony in the northwestern North Sea, over the last 10-20 years. Over this period oceanographic conditions have varied markedly, and between 1990 and 1999 a major industrial fishery for sandlance (Ammodytes marinus), the main prey of most seabird species, was prosecuted nearby. Sandlance fishing grounds close to seabird colonies down the east coast of the UK were closed in 2000 in an attempt to improve foraging opportunities for breeding seabirds, particularly black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). Initially this closure seemed to be beneficial for kittiwakes with breeding success recovering to pre-fishery levels. However, despite the ban continuing, kittiwakes and many other seabird species in the North Sea suffered severe breeding failures in 2004. In this paper, we test the predictive power of four previously established correlations between kittiwake breeding success and climatic/trophic variables to explain the observed breeding success at the Isle of May in 2004. During the breeding season, kittiwakes at this colony switch from feeding on 1+ group to 0 group sandlance, and results up until 2003 indicated that availability of both age classes had a positive effect on kittiwake breeding success. The low breeding success of kittiwakes in 2004 was consistent with the late appearance and small body size of 0 group sandlance, but at odds with the two variables likely to operate via I group availability (lagged winter sea surface temperature and larval sandlance cohort strength in 2003). The reason for the discrepancy is currently unknown, but analysis of I group sandlance body composition indicated that lipid content in 2004 was extremely low, and thus fish eaten by kittiwakes during pre-breeding and early incubation were likely to be of poor quality. Monitoring of reproductive success of kittiwakes, although useful, was clearly not sufficient to tease apart the complex causation underlying the 2004 event. Monitoring programs such as this, therefore, need to be complemented by detailed research to identify the mechanisms involved, and to attribute and predict the effects of natural and human-induced environmental change.

AB - Top predators, particularly seabirds, have repeatedly been suggested as indicators of marine ecosystem status. One region currently under pressure from human fisheries and climate change is the North Sea. Standardized seabird monitoring data have been collected on the Isle of May, an important seabird colony in the northwestern North Sea, over the last 10-20 years. Over this period oceanographic conditions have varied markedly, and between 1990 and 1999 a major industrial fishery for sandlance (Ammodytes marinus), the main prey of most seabird species, was prosecuted nearby. Sandlance fishing grounds close to seabird colonies down the east coast of the UK were closed in 2000 in an attempt to improve foraging opportunities for breeding seabirds, particularly black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). Initially this closure seemed to be beneficial for kittiwakes with breeding success recovering to pre-fishery levels. However, despite the ban continuing, kittiwakes and many other seabird species in the North Sea suffered severe breeding failures in 2004. In this paper, we test the predictive power of four previously established correlations between kittiwake breeding success and climatic/trophic variables to explain the observed breeding success at the Isle of May in 2004. During the breeding season, kittiwakes at this colony switch from feeding on 1+ group to 0 group sandlance, and results up until 2003 indicated that availability of both age classes had a positive effect on kittiwake breeding success. The low breeding success of kittiwakes in 2004 was consistent with the late appearance and small body size of 0 group sandlance, but at odds with the two variables likely to operate via I group availability (lagged winter sea surface temperature and larval sandlance cohort strength in 2003). The reason for the discrepancy is currently unknown, but analysis of I group sandlance body composition indicated that lipid content in 2004 was extremely low, and thus fish eaten by kittiwakes during pre-breeding and early incubation were likely to be of poor quality. Monitoring of reproductive success of kittiwakes, although useful, was clearly not sufficient to tease apart the complex causation underlying the 2004 event. Monitoring programs such as this, therefore, need to be complemented by detailed research to identify the mechanisms involved, and to attribute and predict the effects of natural and human-induced environmental change.

KW - breeding failures

KW - climate change

KW - industrial fisheries

KW - monitoring programs

KW - sandlance

KW - seabirds

KW - rissa-tridactyla

KW - climate-change

KW - breeding success

KW - plankton

KW - diet

KW - ecology

KW - fish

KW - variability

KW - recruitment

KW - performance

U2 - 10.1016/j.pocean.2006.07.007

DO - 10.1016/j.pocean.2006.07.007

M3 - Article

VL - 72

SP - 30

EP - 38

JO - Progress in Oceanography

JF - Progress in Oceanography

SN - 0079-6611

IS - 1

ER -