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Polar Biology

, Volume 37, Issue 8, pp 1061–1071 | Cite as

Declining trends in the majority of Greenland’s thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia) colonies 1981–2011

  • Flemming MerkelEmail author
  • Aili Lage Labansen
  • David Boertmann
  • Anders Mosbech
  • Carsten Egevang
  • Knud Falk
  • Jannie Fries Linnebjerg
  • Morten Frederiksen
  • Kaj Kampp
Original Paper

Abstract

Large population declines were reported for the thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia) in Greenland for the period 1930s–1980s, but no national status has been published for the past 20 years. Meanwhile, the murres have gained more protection and several human-induced mortality factors have been markedly reduced. Here, we give an updated status based on the past 30 years of murre count data. The total Greenland population in 2011 was estimated to 468,300 birds (95 % CI 430,700–505,900) or around 342,000 breeding pairs, distributed within 19 colonies. This represents an overall reduction of 13 % since the mid-/late 1980s. In the same period, five colonies went extinct. Large and apparently stable colonies in Qaanaaq (Northwest Greenland) account for more than half the population (68 %), but most other colonies declined heavily, with up to 6 % p.a. in the most critical areas. So far, nothing indicates that food is a limiting factor in Greenland during the breeding season, although rather few colonies have been studied in details. In contrast, illegal hunting and disturbances during the breeding season are still a problem in Greenland, despite more restrictive hunting regulations, and may explain much of the continued population decline. In addition, recent studies from Svalbard indicate that a large-scale deterioration of the marine environment in the North Atlantic, due to oceanographic changes, may impact recruitment to some of the Greenland colonies. Murre colonies in southern Upernavik, Disko Bay, South Greenland and East Greenland are in urgent need of additional conservation initiatives to avoid further declines and local extinctions.

Keywords

Greenland Thick-billed murre Population decline 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Alex Sand Frich, Frank Wille, Grant Gilchrist, Jan Durinck, Jens Nyeland, Lars M. Rasmussen, Lars Witting, Olivier Gilg and Peter G. H. Evans for their contribution of observations to the Greenland seabird colony database and to Kasper L. Johansen, Morten Bjerrum and Daniel S. Clausen (AU) for GIS support and maintenance of the seabird colony database. We also thank the Greenland Self Rule Government and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency for various financial support over the years. An earlier version of this manuscript was greatly improved by two anonymous reviewers and chief editor Dieter Piepenburg.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Flemming Merkel
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Aili Lage Labansen
    • 1
  • David Boertmann
    • 2
  • Anders Mosbech
    • 2
    • 4
  • Carsten Egevang
    • 1
  • Knud Falk
    • 2
  • Jannie Fries Linnebjerg
    • 2
  • Morten Frederiksen
    • 2
  • Kaj Kampp
    • 3
  1. 1.Greenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  2. 2.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  3. 3.Zoological MuseumUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  4. 4.Arctic Research CenterAarhus UniversityÅrhusDenmark

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