Effect of timing and abundance of lesser sandeel on the breeding success of a North Sea seabird community

Régnier, Thomas; Wright, Peter J.; Harris, Michael P.; Gibb, Fiona M.; Newell, Mark; Eerkes-Medrano, Dafne; Daunt, Francis ORCID:; Wanless, Sarah. 2024 Effect of timing and abundance of lesser sandeel on the breeding success of a North Sea seabird community. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 727. 1-17.

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Understanding the responses of seabirds to climate-induced variations in phenology and abundance of their prey is key to developing ecosystem-based fisheries management measures that benefit higher trophic levels. The match/mismatch hypothesis (MMH) emphasizes the need to consider synchrony in the seasonal cycles of predators and prey, while the match/mismatch/abundance hypothesis (MMAH) proposes that prey abundance may reinforce/compensate mismatch effects. This study considers the effects of both variations in seasonal availability and abundance of lesser sandeel Ammodytes marinus on hatching, fledging and breeding success of 5 seabird species: blacklegged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica, razorbill Alca torda, common guillemot Uria aalge and European shag Gulosus aristotelis. Consistent with MMH, temporal asynchrony between sandeel availability and seabird breeding schedules affected productivity in 4 species. The effects of trophic asynchrony were either reinforced or compensated by sandeel abundance for some species, supporting MMAH. Breeding success in the late-breeding kittiwake was high when conditions favoured both high sandeel abundance and temporal synchrony while the cost of asynchrony could be compensated by high sandeel abundance in the earlier-breeding puffin. Differential effects of sandeel abundance and trophic synchrony at different stages of the seabird breeding season suggest that distinct mechanisms are in volved. The effects were most evident in the most sandeel-reliant seabirds. As further disruption of sandeel phenology and abundance is anticipated under the current climate crisis, the present study is an important step towards understanding bottom-up effects of environmental change on higher trophic levels.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0171-8630
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: Ammodytes marinus, Rissa tridactyla, Fratercula arctica, Alca torda, Uria aalge, Gulosus aristotelis, match/mismatch hypothesis, match/mismatch/abundance hypothesis
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 02 Feb 2024 15:58 +0 (UTC)

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