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Understanding oceanic migrations with intrinsic biogeochemical markers

Ramos, Raül; González-Solís, Jacob; Croxall, John P.; Oro, Daniel; Ruiz, Xavier. 2009 Understanding oceanic migrations with intrinsic biogeochemical markers. PLoS ONE, 4 (7). e6236. 10.1371/journal.pone.0006236

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Abstract/Summary

Migratory marine vertebrates move annually across remote oceanic water masses crossing international borders. Many anthropogenic threats such as overfishing, bycatch, pollution or global warming put millions of marine migrants at risk especially during their long-distance movements. Therefore, precise knowledge about these migratory movements to understand where and when these animals are more exposed to human impacts is vital for addressing marine conservation issues. Because electronic tracking devices suffer from several constraints, mainly logistical and financial, there is emerging interest in finding appropriate intrinsic markers, such as the chemical composition of inert tissues, to study long-distance migrations and identify wintering sites. Here, using tracked pelagic seabirds and some of their own feathers which were known to be grown at different places and times within the annual cycle, we proved the value of biogeochemical analyses of inert tissue as tracers of marine movements and habitat use. Analyses of feathers grown in summer showed that both stable isotope signatures and element concentrations can signal the origin of breeding birds feeding in distinct water masses. However, only stable isotopes signalled water masses used during winter because elements mainly accumulated during the long breeding period are incorporated into feathers grown in both summer and winter. Our findings shed new light on the simple and effective assignment of marine organisms to distinct oceanic areas, providing new opportunities to study unknown migration patterns of secretive species, including in relation to human-induced mortality on specific populations in the marine environment.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1371/journal.pone.0006236
Programmes: BAS Programmes > Polar Science for Planet Earth (2009 - ) > Ecosystems
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open access article made available under a CC-BY Creative Commons Attribution license.
Date made live: 21 May 2013 13:12 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/502009

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