Multi-scale assessment of distribution and density of procellariiform seabirds within the Northern Antarctic Peninsula marine ecosystem
The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions on earth, and it is likely that the abundance and distribution of marine predators will change as a result.Procellariiform seabirds are highly mobile predators, which target specific habitat characteristics associated with underlying distributions of prey and areas of increased prey availability. We use ship surveys and hurdle models, to estimate the summer distribution and relative density of 11 seabird species within the northern Antarctic Peninsula marine ecosystem. Models differed among species; however, sea surface temperature and depth were frequently associated with seabird occurrence and had the greatest explanatory power across many species. Null models based on observation data were better at predicting seabird density than models that included environmental covariates. This suggests that the main driver of distribution patterns is the broad-scale habitat features, and fine-scale aggregations within these ranges are harder to predict. Our seabird distribution models reflect known habitat associations, species hotspots, and community organization relative to oceanic and coastal marine processes. Application of species distribution models will benefit the assessments of critical habitat and potential responses to climate change and anthropogenic disturbance, which will provide insight into how species may change in polar ecosystems.
Authors: Warwick-Evans, V. ORCID record for V. Warwick-Evans, Santora, J.A., Waggitt, J.J., Trathan, P.N.