[b]Seven good reasons to study Arctic seabirds[/b]

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[b]Seven good reasons to study Arctic seabirds[/b]

Message  David Grémillet le Jeu 14 Mar - 18:42

Seven good reasons to study Arctic seabirds

David Grémillet & Jérôme Fort
CEFE-CNRS, Montpellier and Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark

In a rapidly changing Arctic, we argue that the study of seabirds is of paramount importance, and here below we list a series of reasons in support of this opinion. By seabirds we understand birds which primarily use the marine environment as feeding grounds. In the Arctic, the most important seabird groups are Alcids (e.g. little auks and guillemots), Larids (kittiwakes and other gulls), marine ducks (e.g. eiders), petrels (e.g. fulmars), terns, shags and gannets. The general public in France may not feel familiar with many of these species, although most people have seen on TV the thousands of guillemots that were washed ashore following the Erika oil spill.
(1) Seabirds are present everywhere in the Arctic, with the exception of large glaciers such as the Greenland ice cap. They have been shown to cruise the entire Arctic Ocean all year-round, with Ivory gulls being present close to the North Pole even in the middle of winter. Seabirds are therefore eminently suitable for setting up a network of study sites across the Arctic, dedicated to tracking the impact of environmental change through space and time.
(2) Seabirds feed in the water but breathe air and most of them travel on the wing; they are therefore the most visible component of marine ecosystems.
(3) Seabirds are also major players in Arctic marine ecosystems in terms of species number and biomass. Little auks, for instance, which are endemic to the Arctic, are among the three most abundant seabird species of the planet, with a total population estimated at >80 million individuals, and in some places they are capable of consuming a quarter of oceanic copepod biomass. They also accumulate pollutants in their bodies and eggs.
(4) Seabirds are warm-blooded organisms, and therefore require substantial food amounts to balance their energy budgets, survive and reproduce. Because of this expensive life style they are particularly sensitive to environmental change.
(5) Seabirds are long-lived organisms (some of them have the same longevity as humans) which reproduce at low annual rates. They therefore do not adjust rapidly to environmental change, and environmental signals (e.g. climate change) can be traced at the level of individuals, populations and communities.
(6) Seabirds lay eggs and therefore need solid ground to reproduce. Although they are primarily marine creatures they are present on land each year for some time, and can be studied intensively. In particular electronic devices fitted to birds caught on land during the breeding season inform us about their year-round movements and activity patterns at an ocean-basin scale.
(7) Seabirds are iconic creatures and food resources for native people across the Arctic, they are pretty and people around the globe love them and care about their fate in a changing Arctic.
For these different reasons seabirds clearly are a visible tip of the iceberg in Arctic marine ecosystems. They are ideal candidates as ecological indicators and long-term research programs aiming at studying the impact of environmental change on their individuals, populations and communities deserve dedicated, strong support. These aspects have been recognized and underlined by the Arctic Council and its biodiversity working group CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna). It is of particular notice that CAFF has a working group specifically dedicated to seabirds, which is the only CAFF group centred on a specific group of organisms. This confirms the great importance of studying the responses of seabirds to Arctic environmental change in space and time.
Selected references :
Web page of the Cbird working group of CAFF: http://caff.is/seabirds-cbird
Blais, JM., Kimpe, LE., McMahon, D. et al. (2005) Arctic seabirds transport marine-derived contaminants. Science 309: 445-445.
Cury, P.M., Boyd, I.L., Bonhommeau, S., Anker-Nilssen, T., Crawford, R.J.M., Furness, R.W., Mills, J.A., Murphy, E.J., Österblom, H., Paleczny, M., Piatt, J.F., Roux, J.-P., Shannon, L. & Sydeman, W.J. (2011) Global seabird response to forage fish depletion—One-third for the birds. Science 334: 1703-1706.
Croxall, J. P., Butchart, S. H., Lascelles, B., Stattersfield, A. J., Sullivan, B., Symes, A. N. D. Y., & Taylor, P. H. I. L. (2012). Seabird conservation status, threats and priority actions: a global assessment. Bird Conservation International, 22(1).
Egevang, C., Stenhouse, IJ., Phillips, RA. et al. (2010) Tracking of Arctic terns Sterna paradisea reveals longest animal migration. PNAS 107: 2078-2081.
Fort, J., Beaugrand, G., Grémillet, D. & Phillips, R.A. (2012). Biologging, Remote-Sensed Oceanography and the Continuous Plankton Recorder Reveal the Environmental Determinants of a Seabird Wintering Hotspot - PLoS ONE 7(7): e41194. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041194
Gilg, O. and 12 colleagues (2012). Climate change and the ecology and evolution of Arctic vertebrates - Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology.
Grémillet, D., Welcker, J., Karnovsky, N.J., Walkusz, W., Hall, M.E., Fort, J., Brown, Z.W., Speakman, J.R. & Harding, A.M.A. (2012). Little auks buffer the impact of current Arctic climate change - Mar Ecol Progr Ser 454: 197-206.
Karnovsky, NJ. & Hunt GL (2002) Estimation of carbon flux to dovekies (Alle alle) in the North Water. Deep-Sea Res II 49: 5117-5130.
Moe, B., Stempniewicz, L, Jakubas, D. et al. (2009) Climate change and phonological responses of two seabird species breeding in the high-Arctic. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 393: 235-246.

David Grémillet

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Date d'inscription : 01/03/2013

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