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Habitat-mediated population limitation in a colonial central-place forager: the sky is not the limit for the black-browed albatross

Wakefield, E. D.; Phillips, R. A.; Matthiopoulos, J.. 2014 Habitat-mediated population limitation in a colonial central-place forager: the sky is not the limit for the black-browed albatross. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281 (1778). 20132883. 10.1098/rspb.2013.2883

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Abstract/Summary

Animal populations are frequently limited by the availability of food or of habitat. In central-place foragers, the cost of accessing these resources is distance-dependent rather than uniform in space. However, in seabirds, a widely studied exemplar of this paradigm, empirical population models have hitherto ignored this cost. In part, this is because non-independence among colonies makes it difficult to define population units. Here, we model the effects of both resource availability and accessibility on populations of a wide-ranging, pelagic seabird, the black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris. Adopting a multi-scale approach, we define regional populations objectively as spatial clusters of colonies. We consider two readily quantifiable proxies of resource availability: the extent of neritic waters (the preferred foraging habitat) and net primary production (NPP). We show that the size of regional albatross populations has a strong dependence, after weighting for accessibility, on habitat availability and to a lesser extent, NPP. Our results provide indirect support for the hypothesis that seabird populations are regulated from the bottom-up by food availability during the breeding season, and also suggest that the spatio-temporal predictability of food may be limiting. Moreover, we demonstrate a straightforward, widely applicable method for estimating resource limitation in populations of central-place foragers.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1098/rspb.2013.2883
Programmes: BAS Programmes > Polar Science for Planet Earth (2009 - ) > Ecosystems
ISSN: 0962-8452
Date made live: 20 Jan 2014 09:48 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/504569

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