Observed and predicted effects of climate on Australian seabirds

  • Chambers L
  • Devney C
  • Congdon B
 et al. 
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Abstract. Although there is growing evidence of climate warming, for many regions the broader effects of climate variation on marine top predators remains unknown owing to the diffi culty in obtaining, for synthesis, long-term and short-term datasets on multiple species. In the Australian region, climatic and oceanographic variability and change have been shown to affect marine species, often with profound consequences. Many seabirds are apex predators for which changes in climatic and oceanic dynamics have driven range movements poleward, reduced breeding success and altered breeding timing for some species. Here we review the literature to assess and determine the vulnerability of Australian seabirds to variation and change in climate and identify which species and ecosystems may be more resilient to future climate warming. It is clear from this synthesis that not all Australian seabirds are affected similarly, with responses varying by species and location. In addition, the paucity of information on the distribution and biology of seabird prey, foraging patterns and movements of seabirds, and the ability of seabirds to switch between prey species or adjust timing of life-cycles make generalisations about potential effects of future climate change and adaptive capacity in seabirds diffi cult. This applies both within Australia and elsewhere, where data are similarly sparse. Additional keywords: climate change, ENSO, sea-surface temperature. Introduction There is growing evidence that climate warming is adversely affecting marine ecosystems and species (Hughes2000 ; Walther et al.2002; Rootet al.2003; Ainleyet al.2010 ). Reproduction, distribution, phenology and survival can all be affected by large-scale climatic processes, such as the El Niño– Southern Oscil-lation (ENSO) (Stensethet al.2002; Millset al.2008 ; Sydeman and Bograd2009; Ainley and Hyrenbach2010 ). Climatic signals from the marine environment at local scales (i.e. temperature, wind and precipitation) also affect demographic processes in some species (Aebischeret al.1990 ; Kitaysky and Golubova 2000; Gjerdrumet al.2003 ). In some cases, demography (e.g. reproduction and recruitment) can be infl uenced by both large-scale and local processes (Sandviket al.2005; Votieret al . 2005; Weimerskirchet al.2003 ). The effects of climatic vari-ability also differ among species owing to species-specifi c life-history characteristics, foraging guilds, and adaptation to local environments (Edwards and Richardson2004; Postet al . 2009; Suryanet al.2009; Rollandet al.2010 ). Hence, a range of complex dynamical environmental forces profoundly infl uences which species and ecosystems are vulnerable to predicted future climatic changes (Tierno de Figueroaet al . 2010;Ainley and Hyrenbach2010 ). Many seabirds are apex marine predators that are heavily infl uenced by variation in, and changes to, the marine environ-ment. Such changes affect prey density and availability, which fl ow on to higher trophic levels, with effects on abundance, distribution, productivity, behaviour and community structure of seabirds (e.g. Ainleyet al.1988; Velardeet al.2004 ; Richardson et al.2006; Woehleret al.2006; Congdonet al.2007 ; Cullen et al.2009 ). This is particularly evident in regions where local sea-surface temperatures (SST) and marine productivity are infl uenced by upwelling dynamics and boundary currents (reviewed by Ballanceet al.2006 ). For example, higher SSTs have been linked to both reduced and improved breeding success, later breeding, and increased mortality in several seabird species in the central and eastern Pacifi c, Indian, southern Atlantic and Southern Oceans (Ainleyet al.1988 ; Crawford and Jahncke1999; Velardeet al.2004; Ramoset al.2006 ; Woehler2006 ). In contrast, for surface-feeding birds in the CSIROPUBLISHING Review www.

Author-supplied keywords

  • ENSO
  • climate change
  • sea-surface temperature

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