Global wind patterns influence dispersal and migration processes of aerial organisms, propagules and particles, which ultimately could determine the dynamics of colonizations, invasions or spread of pathogens. However, studying how wind-mediated movements actually happen has been hampered so far by the lack of high resolution global wind data as well as the impossibility to track aerial movements. Using concurrent data on winds and actual pathways of a tracked seabird, here we show that oceanic winds define spatiotemporal pathways and barriers for large-scale aerial movements. We obtained wind data from NASA SeaWinds scatterometer to calculate wind cost (impedance) models reflecting the resistance to the aerial movement near the ocean surface. We also tracked the movements of a model organism, the Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), a pelagic bird known to perform long distance migrations. Cost models revealed that distant areas can be connected through "wind highways" that do not match the shortest great circle routes. Bird routes closely followed the low-cost "wind-highways" linking breeding and wintering areas. In addition, we found that a potential barrier, the near surface westerlies in the Atlantic sector of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), temporally hindered meridional transequatorial movements. Once the westerlies vanished, birds crossed the ITCZ to their winter quarters. This study provides a novel approach to investigate wind-mediated movements in oceanic environments and shows that large-scale migration and dispersal processes over the oceans can be largely driven by spatiotemporal wind patterns. © 2008 Felicísimo et al.
Felicísimo, Á. M., Muñoz, J., & González-Solis, J. (2008). Ocean surface winds drive dynamics of transoceanic aerial movements. PLoS ONE, 3(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0002928