Skipped breeding in common guillemots in a changing climate: restraint or constraint?

Reed, Thomas; Harris, Mike; Wanless, Sarah. 2015 Skipped breeding in common guillemots in a changing climate: restraint or constraint? Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 3, 1.

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Climate change may have demographic consequences for marine top predators if it leads to altered rates of skipped breeding. Here we examine variation in skipping propensity at both the population and individual levels in common guillemots Uria aalge in relation to climate and oceanographic variables and explore the extent to which skipping may be adaptive or an unavoidable consequence of ecological or social constraints. We assumed a detection probability for birds present in the colony of 1.00 and skipping events were defined to include both resightings of non-breeders and failures to resight individuals known to be alive (not present at the colony but resighted in future years). Skipping frequency was higher in years where sea surface temperatures (SST) were higher in winter (both in the current and previous year), when guillemots from our study colony disperse widely across the southern North Sea. Individuals differed consistently in their average skipping propensity and their responses to SST. Males and females were equally likely to skip on average and the frequency of skipping increased in the oldest age classes. Birds that skipped in year t had lower breeding success in year t+1 if they laid an egg, compared to birds that did not skip in year t. Lifetime reproductive output was negatively related to individual skipping frequency. These results imply that skipping is driven more by individual-specific constraints, although we cannot rule out the possibility that birds benefit from skipping when environmental (or internal) signals indicate that breeding in poor years could be detrimental to their residual reproductive value. While future climate change might lead to guillemots skipping more often due to carry-over effects from wintering to breeding periods, the net demographic impacts may be subtle as the absolute frequency of skipping may remain low and individuals will not be equally affected.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 2296-701X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - Official URL link provides full text
Additional Keywords: phenotypic plasticity, intermittent breeding, nonbreeding, nonbreeders, life history buffering, environmental cue
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 16 Jan 2015 12:05 +0 (UTC)

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