Environmental heterogeneity decreases reproductive success via effects on foraging behaviour

Trevail, Alice M.; Green, Jonathan A.; Sharples, Jonathan; Polton, Jeff A. ORCID:; Miller, Peter I.; Daunt, Francis ORCID:; Owen, Ellie; Bolton, Mark; Colhoun, Kendrew; Newton, Stephen; Robertson, Gail; Patrick, Samantha C.. 2019 Environmental heterogeneity decreases reproductive success via effects on foraging behaviour. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286 (1904), 20190795. 10, pp.

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Environmental heterogeneity shapes the uneven distribution of resources available to foragers, and is ubiquitous in nature. Optimal foraging theory predicts that an animal's ability to exploit resource patches is key to foraging success. However, the potential fitness costs and benefits of foraging in a heterogeneous environment are difficult to measure empirically. Heterogeneity may provide higher-quality foraging opportunities, or alternatively could increase the cost of resource acquisition because of reduced patch density or increased competition. Here, we study the influence of physical environmental heterogeneity on behaviour and reproductive success of black-legged kittiwakes, Rissa tridactyla. From GPS tracking data at 15 colonies throughout their British and Irish range, we found that environments that were physically more heterogeneous were associated with longer trip duration, more time spent foraging while away from the colony, increased overlap of foraging areas between individuals and lower breeding success. These results suggest that there is greater competition between individuals for finite resources in more heterogeneous environments, which comes at a cost to reproduction. Resource hotspots are often considered beneficial, as individuals can learn to exploit them if sufficiently predictable. However, we demonstrate here that such fitness gains can be countered by greater competition in more heterogeneous environments.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0962-8452
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: competition, seabird, hidden Markov model, heterogeneity gradient, optimal foraging theory, resource availability
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 03 Jul 2019 15:26 +0 (UTC)

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