Changes in seabird species abundance near South Georgia during a period of rapid change in sea surface temperature

During a three month research cruise near the island of South Georgia, sea surface temperature (SST) increased from c. 2°C to over 4°C. Satellite derived SST show that this corresponded to a rapid southward and eastward shift of isotherms in the northern Scotia Sea, which could have resulted from changes in the wind field. At the same time, observation from the ship of seabirds close to the island indicated changes in the abundance of some non-resident species, whereas resident breeders from South Georgia, such as black-browed albatrosses (Diomedea melanophris) and prions (Pachyptila spp.) which were foraging locally, were present at consistent density in both halves of the survey. Blue petrels (Halobaena caerulea) left the area after breeding, so were associated only with the low water temperatures during the first part of the cruise. In contrast, great shearwaters (Puffinus gravis) and soft-plumaged petrels (Pterodroma mollis) migrated into the area later in the survey. These birds were almost certainly non-breeders which were feeding in the warmer water which had moved towards the island.


Publication status:
Authors: Hunt, G.L., Priddle, J., Whitehouse, M.J., Veit, R.R., Heywood, R.B.

1 March, 1992
Antarctic Science / 4
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