Year-round spatiotemporal distribution pattern of a threatened sea duck species breeding on Kolguev Island, south-eastern Barents Sea.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:The long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) was categorized as ´Vulnerable` by the IUCN after a study revealed a rapid wintering population decline of 65% between 1992-1993 and 2007-2009 in the Baltic Sea. As knowledge about the European long-tailed duck's life cycle and movement ecology is limited, we investigate its year-round spatiotemporal distribution patterns. Specifically, we aimed to identify the wintering grounds, timing of migration and staging of this population via light-level geolocation. RESULTS:Of the 48 female long-tailed ducks tagged on Kolguev Island (western Russian Arctic), 19 were recaptured to obtain data. After breeding and moulting at freshwater lakes, ducks went out to sea around Kolguev Island and to marine waters ranging from the White Sea to Novaya Zemlya Archipelago for 33?±?10 days. After a rapid autumn migration, 18 of 19 birds spent their winter in the Baltic Sea and one bird in the White Sea, where they stayed for 212?±?3 days. There, they used areas known to host long-tailed ducks, but areas differed among individuals. After a rapid spring migration in mid-May, the birds spent 23?±?3 days at sea in coastal areas between the White Sea and Kolguev Island, before returning to their freshwater breeding habitats in June. CONCLUSIONS:The Baltic Sea represents the most important wintering area for female long-tailed ducks from Kolguev Island. Important spring and autumn staging areas include the Barents Sea and the White Sea. Climate change will render these habitats more exposed to human impacts in the form of fisheries, marine traffic and oil exploitation in near future. Threats that now operate in the wintering areas may thus spread to the higher latitude staging areas and further increase the pressure on long-tailed ducks.
Project description:Conservation of long-distance migratory species poses unique challenges. Migratory connectivity, that is, the extent to which groupings of individuals at breeding sites are maintained in wintering areas, is frequently used to evaluate population structure and assess use of key habitat areas. However, for species with complex or variable annual cycle movements, this traditional bimodal framework of migratory connectivity may be overly simplistic. Like many other waterfowl, sea ducks often travel to specific pre- and post-breeding sites outside their nesting and wintering areas to prepare for migration by feeding extensively and, in some cases, molting their flight feathers. These additional migrations may play a key role in population structure, but are not included in traditional models of migratory connectivity. Network analysis, which applies graph theory to assess linkages between discrete locations or entities, offers a powerful tool for quantitatively assessing the contributions of different sites used throughout the annual cycle to complex spatial networks. We collected satellite telemetry data on annual cycle movements of 672 individual sea ducks of five species from throughout eastern North America and the Great Lakes. From these data, we constructed a multi-species network model of migratory patterns and site use over the course of breeding, molting, wintering, and migratory staging. Our results highlight inter- and intra-specific differences in the patterns and complexity of annual cycle movement patterns, including the central importance of staging and molting sites in James Bay, the St. Lawrence River, and southern New England to multi-species annual cycle habitat linkages, and highlight the value of Long-tailed Ducks (Calengula haemalis) as an umbrella species to represent the movement patterns of multiple sea duck species. We also discuss potential applications of network migration models to conservation prioritization, identification of population units, and integrating different data streams.
Project description:Spatial and temporal distribution of seabird transiting and foraging at sea is an important consideration for marine conservation planning. Using at-sea observations of seabirds (n = 317), collected during the breeding season from 2012 to 2016, we built boosted regression tree (BRT) models to identify relationships between numerically dominant seabird species (red-footed booby, brown noddy, white tern, and wedge-tailed shearwater), geomorphology, oceanographic variability, and climate oscillation in the Chagos Archipelago. We documented positive relationships between red-footed booby and wedge-tailed shearwater abundance with the strength in the Indian Ocean Dipole, as represented by the Dipole Mode Index (6.7% and 23.7% contribution, respectively). The abundance of red-footed boobies, brown noddies, and white terns declined abruptly with greater distance to island (17.6%, 34.1%, and 41.1% contribution, respectively). We further quantified the effects of proximity to rat-free and rat-invaded islands on seabird distribution at sea and identified breaking point distribution thresholds. We detected areas of increased abundance at sea and habitat use-age under a scenario where rats are eradicated from invaded nearby islands and recolonized by seabirds. Following rat eradication, abundance at sea of red-footed booby, brown noddy, and white terns increased by 14%, 17%, and 3%, respectively, with no important increase detected for shearwaters. Our results have implication for seabird conservation and island restoration. Climate oscillations may cause shifts in seabird distribution, possibly through changes in regional productivity and prey distribution. Invasive species eradications and subsequent island recolonization can lead to greater access for seabirds to areas at sea, due to increased foraging or transiting through, potentially leading to distribution gains and increased competition. Our approach predicting distribution after successful eradications enables anticipatory threat mitigation in these areas, minimizing competition between colonies and thereby maximizing the risk of success and the conservation impact of eradication programs.
Project description:The Pacific walrus is a large benthivore with an annual range extending across the continental shelves of the Bering and Chukchi Seas. We used a discrete choice model to estimate site selection by adult radio-tagged walruses relative to the availability of the caloric biomass of benthic infauna and sea ice concentration in a prominent walrus wintering area in the northern Bering Sea (St. Lawrence Island polynya) in 2006, 2008, and 2009. At least 60% of the total caloric biomass of dominant macroinfauna in the study area was composed of members of the bivalve families Nuculidae, Tellinidae, and Nuculanidae. Model estimates indicated walrus site selection was related most strongly to tellinid bivalve caloric biomass distribution and that walruses selected lower ice concentrations from the mostly high ice concentrations that were available to them (quartiles: 76%, 93%, and 99%). Areas with high average predicted walrus site selection generally coincided with areas of high organic carbon input identified in other studies. Projected decreases in sea ice in the St. Lawrence Island polynya and the potential for a concomitant decline of bivalves in the region could result in a northward shift in the wintering grounds of walruses in the northern Bering Sea.
Project description:Low pathogenic avian influenza virus can mutate to a highly pathogenic strain that causes severe clinical signs in birds and humans. Migratory waterfowl, especially ducks, are considered the main hosts of low pathogenic avian influenza virus, but the role of geese in dispersing the virus over long-distances is still unclear. We collected throat and cloaca samples from three goose species, Bean goose (Anser fabalis), Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) and Greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), from their breeding grounds, spring stopover sites, and wintering grounds. We tested if the geese were infected with low pathogenic avian influenza virus outside of their wintering grounds, and analysed the spatial and temporal patterns of infection prevalence on their wintering grounds. Our results show that geese were not infected before their arrival on wintering grounds. Barnacle geese and Greater white-fronted geese had low prevalence of infection just after their arrival on wintering grounds in the Netherlands, but the prevalence increased in successive months, and peaked after December. This suggests that migratory geese are exposed to the virus after their arrival on wintering grounds, indicating that migratory geese might not disperse low pathogenic avian influenza virus during autumn migration.
Project description:Wildlife managers routinely seek to establish sustainable limits of sport harvest or other regulated forms of take while confronted with considerable uncertainty. A growing body of ecological research focuses on methods to describe and account for uncertainty in management decision-making and to prioritize research and monitoring investments to reduce the most influential uncertainties. We used simulation methods incorporating measures of demographic uncertainty to evaluate risk of overharvest and prioritize information needs for North American sea ducks (Tribe Mergini). Sea ducks are popular game birds in North America, yet they are poorly monitored and their population dynamics are poorly understood relative to other North American waterfowl. There have been few attempts to assess the sustainability of harvest of North American sea ducks, and no formal harvest strategy exists in the U.S. or Canada to guide management. The popularity of sea duck hunting, extended hunting opportunity for some populations (i.e., special seasons and/or bag limits), and population declines have led to concern about potential overharvest. We used Monte Carlo simulation to contrast estimates of allowable harvest and observed harvest and assess risk of overharvest for 7 populations of North American sea ducks: the American subspecies of common eider (Somateria mollissima dresseri), eastern and western populations of black scoter (Melanitta americana) and surf scoter (M. perspicillata), and continental populations of white-winged scoter (M. fusca) and long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis). We combined information from empirical studies and the opinions of experts through formal elicitation to create probability distributions reflecting uncertainty in the individual demographic parameters used in this assessment. Estimates of maximum growth (rmax), and therefore of allowable harvest, were highly uncertain for all populations. Long-tailed duck and American common eider appeared to be at high risk of overharvest (i.e., observed harvest < allowable harvest in 5-7% and 19-26% of simulations, respectively depending on the functional form of density dependence), whereas the other populations appeared to be at moderate risk to low risk (observed harvest < allowable harvest in 22-68% of simulations, again conditional on the form of density dependence). We also evaluated the sensitivity of the difference between allowable and observed harvest estimates to uncertainty in individual demographic parameters to prioritize information needs. We found that uncertainty in overall fecundity had more influence on comparisons of allowable and observed harvest than adult survival or observed harvest for all species except long-tailed duck. Although adult survival was characterized by less uncertainty than individual components of fecundity, it was identified as a high priority information need given the sensitivity of growth rate and allowable harvest to this parameter. Uncertainty about population size was influential in the comparison of observed and allowable harvest for 5 of the 6 populations where it factored into the assessment. While this assessment highlights a high degree of uncertainty in allowable harvest, it provides a framework for integration of improved data from future research and monitoring. It could also serve as the basis for harvest strategy development as management objectives and regulatory alternatives are specified by the management community.
Project description:From data on allozyme, nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA markers, we show that the originally North Pacific/Northwest Atlantic mussel Mytilus trossulus is widespread on North European coasts, earliM. trossuluser thought to be inhabited only by Mytilus edulis. Several local occurrences of , interspersed with a dominant M. edulis, were recorded on the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea coasts of Norway and the Barents and White Sea coasts of Kola Peninsula in Russia. The proportion of M. trossulus genetic background observed at any one site varied from 0 to 95%. These new occurrences are not related to the previously known, introgressed M. trossulus population that occupies the Baltic Sea. The new northern occurrences retain both the F and M M. trossulus mitochondria, which have been lost from the Baltic stock. While hybridization takes place wherever M. trossulus and M. edulis meet, the extent of hybrization varies between the different contact areas. Hybrids are rare, and the hybrid zones are bimodal in the northern areas; more interbreeding has taken place further south in Norway, but even there genotypic disequilibria are higher than those in the steep transition zone between the Baltic mussel and M. edulis: there is no evidence of a collapse toward a hybrid swarm unlike in the Baltic. The Barents and White Sea M. trossulus are genetically slightly closer to the NW Atlantic than NE Pacific populations, while the Baltic mussel has unique features distinguishing it from the others. We postulate that the presence of M. trossulus in Northern Europe is a result of repeated independent inter- or transoceanic cryptic invasions of various ages, up to recent times.
Project description:Background:For the conservation and management of migratory species that strongly decrease or increase due to anthropological impacts, a clear delineation of populations and quantification of possible mixing (migratory connectivity) is crucial. Usually, population exchange in migratory species is only studied in breeding or wintering sites, but we considered the whole annual cycle in order to determine important stages and sites for population mixing in an Arctic migrant. Methods:We used 91 high resolution GPS tracks of Western Palearctic greater white-fronted geese (Anser A. albifrons) from the North Sea and Pannonic populations to extract details of where and when populations overlapped and exchange was possible. Overlap areas were calculated as dynamic Brownian bridges of stopover, nest and moulting sites. Results:Utilisation areas of the two populations overlapped only somewhat during spring and autumn migration stopovers, but much during moult. During this stage, non-breeders and failed breeders of the North Sea population intermixed with geese from the Pannonic population in the Pyasina delta on Taimyr peninsula. The timing of use of overlap areas was highly consistent between populations, making exchange possible. Two of our tracked geese switched from the North Sea population flyway to the Pannonic flyway during moult on Taimyr peninsula or early during the subsequent autumn migration. Because we could follow one of them during the next year, where it stayed in the Pannonic flyway, we suggest that the exchange was long-term or permanent. Conclusions:We have identified long-distance moult migration of failed or non-breeders as a key phenomenon creating overlap between two flyway populations of geese. This supports the notion of previously suggested population exchange and migratory connectivity, but outside of classically suggested wintering or breeding sites. Our results call for consideration of moult migration and population exchange in conservation and management of our greater white-fronted geese as well as other waterfowl populations.
Project description:Background:The arrival of many species of migrant passerine in the European spring has shifted earlier over recent decades, attributed to climate change and rising temperatures in Europe and west Africa. Few studies have shown the effects of climate change in both hemispheres though many long-distance migrants use wintering grounds which span Africa. The migrants' arrival in Europe thus potentially reflects a combination of the conditions they experience across Africa. We examine if the timing of spring migration of a long-distance migrant, the Willow Warbler, is related to large-scale climate indices across Africa and Europe. Methods:Using data from daily mistnetting from 1 April to 15 May in 1982-2017 at Bukowo (Poland, Baltic Sea coast), we developed an Annual Anomaly metric (AA, in days) to estimate how early or late Willow Warblers arrive each spring in relation to their multi-year average pattern. The Willow Warblers' spring passage advanced by 5.4 days over the 36 years. We modelled AA using 14 potential explanatory variables in multiple regression models. The variables were the calendar year and 13 large-scale indices of climate in Africa and Europe averaged over biologically meaningful periods of two to four months during the year before spring migration. Results:The best model explained 59% of the variation in AA with seven variables: Northern Atlantic Oscillation (two periods), Indian Ocean Dipole, Southern Oscillation Index, Sahel Precipitation Anomaly, Scandinavian Index and local mean temperatures. The study also confirmed that a long-term trend for Willow Warblers to arrive earlier in spring continued up to 2017. Discussion:Our results suggest that the timing of Willow Warbler spring migration at the Baltic Sea coast is related to a summation of the ecological conditions they had encountered over the previous year during breeding, migration south, wintering in Africa and migration north. We suggest these large-scale climate indices reflect ecological drivers for phenological changes in species with complex migration patterns and discuss the ways in which each of the seven climate indices could be related to spring migration at the Baltic Sea coast.
Project description:We report on life history characteristics, temporal, and age-related effects influencing the frequency of occurrence of avian influenza (AI) viruses in four species of migratory geese breeding on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Emperor geese (Chen canagica), cackling geese (Branta hutchinsii), greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons), and black brant (Branta bernicla), were all tested for active infection of AI viruses upon arrival in early May, during nesting in June, and while molting in July and August, 2006-2010 (n?=?14,323). Additionally, prior exposure to AI viruses was assessed via prevalence of antibodies from sera samples collected during late summer in 2009 and 2010. Results suggest that geese are uncommonly infected by low pathogenic AI viruses while in Alaska. The percent of birds actively shedding AI viruses varied annually, and was highest in 2006 and 2010 (1-3%) and lowest in 2007, 2008, and 2009 (<0.70%). Contrary to findings in ducks, the highest incidence of infected birds was in late spring when birds first arrived from staging and wintering areas. Despite low prevalence, most geese were previously exposed to AI viruses, as indicated by high levels of seroprevalence during late summer (47%-96% across species; n?=?541). Seroprevalence was >95% for emperor geese, a species that spends part of its life cycle in Asia and is endemic to Alaska and the Bering Sea region, compared to 40-60% for the other three species, whose entire life cycles are within the western hemisphere. Birds <45 days of age showed little past exposure to AI viruses, although antibodies were detected in samples from 5-week old birds in 2009. Seroprevalence of known age black brant revealed that no birds <4 years old had seroconverted, compared to 49% of birds ?4 years of age.
Project description:The brackish Baltic Sea hosts species of various origins and environmental tolerances. These immigrated to the sea 10,000 to 15,000 years ago or have been introduced to the area over the relatively recent history of the system. The Baltic Sea has only one known endemic species. While information on some abiotic parameters extends back as long as five centuries and first quantitative snapshot data on biota (on exploited fish populations) originate generally from the same time, international coordination of research began in the early twentieth century. Continuous, annual Baltic Sea-wide long-term datasets on several organism groups (plankton, benthos, fish) are generally available since the mid-1950s. Based on a variety of available data sources (published papers, reports, grey literature, unpublished data), the Baltic Sea, incl. Kattegat, hosts altogether at least 6,065 species, including at least 1,700 phytoplankton, 442 phytobenthos, at least 1,199 zooplankton, at least 569 meiozoobenthos, 1,476 macrozoobenthos, at least 380 vertebrate parasites, about 200 fish, 3 seal, and 83 bird species. In general, but not in all organism groups, high sub-regional total species richness is associated with elevated salinity. Although in comparison with fully marine areas the Baltic Sea supports fewer species, several facets of the system's diversity remain underexplored to this day, such as micro-organisms, foraminiferans, meiobenthos and parasites. In the future, climate change and its interactions with multiple anthropogenic forcings are likely to have major impacts on the Baltic biodiversity.