Variations of snow petrel breeding success in relation to sea-ice extent: Detecting local response to large-scale processes?

  • Olivier F
  • Van Franeker J
  • Creuwels J
 et al. 
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Demographic parameters were estimated for snow petrels Pagodroma nivea nesting at the study colony of Reeve Hill near Casey station, Antarctica between 1984 and 2003. Average breeding success for the colony varied from 18.2% to 76.5%. Breeding effort, hatching and fledging success were subject to a high interannual variability. We examined the influence of regional sea-ice extent on the breeding performance of snow petrels at Reeve Hill. Fewer birds were breeding when sea-ice had been extensive during April–May. Overall breeding success and fledging success were improved during years with extensive sea-ice cover in winter. Successful breeding effort and breeding success were depressed when there was extensive sea-ice cover during January–February. Sea surface temperatures also correlated to snow petrel breeding performance parameters. Previous work showed that large-scale climatic events (ENSO, Antarctic circumpolar wave) and the related sea-ice cover around the Antarctic might affect the lower trophic levels of the marine environment and consequently food availability for snow petrels. A comparison with the long-term study conducted at Ile des Pe´ trels (Terre Ade´ lie) suggests that despite similarities in the underlying biological processes that control snow petrel breeding performance, the nature of the correlation of large-scale environmental factors with breeding performance differs substantially between the two colonies, probably because of the confounding effects of other environmental factors acting at a local scale (local weather, nest quality), which also affect bird body condition.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Breeding success
  • Inter-annual variability
  • Long-term monitoring
  • Nest
  • Sea-ice
  • Snow petrel

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