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The Use of Seabirds as Indicators of Changes in the Marine Environment Through Provisioning and Population Trends

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Title: The Use of Seabirds as Indicators of Changes in the Marine Environment Through Provisioning and Population Trends
Author: Cunningham, Joshua
Department: Department of Integrative Biology
Program: Integrative Biology
Advisor: Jacobs, ShoshanahCottenie, Karl
Abstract: Seabirds are considered strong bioindicators of marine health and changes in seabird ecology can reflect issues in the surrounding marine environment. In this thesis, seabird ecology was examined at several scales to see if seabirds could indicate changes in the marine ecosystem. In Chapter 1, rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) chick diets were used to detect changes in prey availability among and within years. Changes in diet within years was likely due to prey life-history traits, while changes among years were reflective of changes in the surrounding marine environment. Chapter 2 compared the population trends of seabirds on Middleton Island to colonies in the Gulf of Alaska for evidence of population synchrony. Seabird populations declined across the Gulf of Alaska, potentially due to the 1977 warm water regime shift. However, populations of select seabirds on Middleton Island contrasted their species’ large-scale population trends, suggesting that local factors played important roles in the population trends of these seabirds. These results demonstrate how seabirds can indicate large changes in their environment (population declines), but how using individual colonies, such as Middleton Island, may not detect these large changes in the marine environment due to local influence. Together these chapters demonstrate the value of seabirds as bioindicators and their ability of to detect changes in the marine environment at varying scales. The result of this thesis strengthens our knowledge of seabird biology and ecology, and their ability to be bioindicators of marine environments.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/11579
Date: 2017-09-13


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