Ocean climate and El Niño impacts on survival of Cassin’s Auklets from upwelling and downwelling domains of British Columbia
Douglas F. Bertram, Anne Harfenist, and Barry D. Smith
Abstract: We report on the survival of populations of Cassin’s Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) that breed on two oceanic colonies in British Columbia: Triangle Island, near the northern end of the California Current Ecosystem, and Frederick Island to the north in the Alaska Current Ecosystem. We captured and banded birds at both colonies from 1994 to 2000 and analyzed the recovery data with the computer program MARK. Average local adult annual survival (± standard error) was significantly lower (p = 0.0001) on Triangle Island (0.71 ± 0.02) than that on Frederick Island (0.80 ± 0.02), likely a result of poor production in the California Current Ecosystem during the 1990s. Coincident with a strong El Niño event, survival in 1997–1998 fell in unison to the lowest values observed for both colonies (to
0.54 ± 0.05 and 0.64 ± 0.04, respectively, for adults). A common winter environment in the California Current Ecosystem could explain the unified mortality response of both British Columbia populations to an exceptionally poor food period. The seabird colonies in this study occupy key positions in relation to major oceanographic domains and hence provide unique platforms for investigations of marine ecosystem response to ocean climate variability in the Northeast Pacific Ocean.
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