Fledging success of little auks in the high Arctic: do provisioning rates and the quality of foraging grounds matter?
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Long-lived birds often face a dilemma between self-maintenance and reproduction. In order to maximize fitness, some seabird parents alternate short trips to collect food for offspring with long trips for self-feeding (bimodal foraging strategy). In this study, we examined whether temporal and spatial variation in the quality of foraging grounds affect provisioning and fledging success of a long-lived, bimodal forager, the little auk (Alle alle), the most abundant seabird species in the Arctic ecosystem. We predicted that an increase in sea surface temperature (SST), with an associated decrease in the preferred Arctic zooplankton prey, would increase foraging trip durations, decrease chick provisioning rates and decrease chick fledging success. Chick provisioning and survival were observed during three consecutive years (2008–2010) at two colonies with variable foraging conditions in Spitsbergen: Isfjorden and Magdalenefjorden. We found that a change in SST (range 1.6–5.4 °C) did not influence trip durations or provisioning rates. SST was, however, negatively correlated with the number of prey items delivered to a chick. Furthermore, provisioning rates did not influence chick’s probability to fledge; instead, SST was also negatively correlated with fledging probability. This was likely related to the prey availability and quality in the little auk’s foraging grounds. Our findings suggest that predicted warmer climate in the Arctic will negatively influence the ability of parents to provide their chicks, and consequently, the fledging prospects of little auk chicks.
KeywordsBimodal foraging Fledging success Alle alle Calanus Svalbard
This work was supported by a grant from Norway through the Norwegian Financial Mechanisms Project No. PNRF-234-AI-1/07(ALKEKONGE) and conducted under the permission of the Governor of Svalbard and Norwegian Animal Research Authority. We thank Rafał Boehnke for analysing chick diet data from Magdalenefjorden and Mateusz Barcikowski, Anika Beiersdorf, Eirik Grønningsæter, Aino Luukkonen, Atle Coward Markussen, Adam Nawrot, Jan Samołyk, Lech Stempniewicz, Tobias Stål and Mikko Vihtakari for their invaluable help in the field.
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