International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 603–612 | Cite as

Climate as a driver of phenological change in southern seabirds

  • Lynda E. ChambersEmail author
  • Peter Dann
  • Belinda Cannell
  • Eric J. Woehler
Phenology - Milwaukee 2012


Seabirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds globally and, overall, their conservation status is deteriorating rapidly. Southern hemisphere countries are over-represented in the number of species of conservation concern yet long-term phenological data on seabirds in the southern hemisphere is limited. A better understanding of the implications of changes in the marine and terrestrial environments to seabird species is required in order to improve their management and conservation status. Here we conducted a meta-analysis of the phenological drivers and trends among southern hemisphere seabirds. Overall there was a general trend towards later phenological events over time (34 % of all data series, N = 47; 67 % of all significant trends), though this varied by taxa and location. The strongest trends towards later events were for seabirds breeding in Australia, the Laridae (gulls, noddies, terns) and migratory southern polar seabirds. In contrast, earlier phenologies were more often observed for the Spheniscidae (penguins) and for other seabirds breeding in the Antarctic and subantarctic. Phenological changes were most often associated with changes in oceanographic conditions, with sea-ice playing an important role for more southerly species. For some species in some locations, such as the Little Penguin Eudyptula minor in south-eastern Australia, warmer oceans projected under various climate change scenarios are expected to correspond to increased seabird productivity, manifested through earlier breeding, heavier chicks, an increased chance of double brooding, at least in the short-term.


Penguin Eudyptula minor Sea surface temperature Southern hemisphere Seabirds 



We wish to acknowledge countless students and volunteers who have helped to monitor the various Little Penguin colonies over the years and whose dedication has greatly enhanced our knowledge of this species. These include members of the Penguin Study Group (Phillip Island) and Earthcare St Kilda Inc. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynda E. Chambers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter Dann
    • 2
  • Belinda Cannell
    • 3
  • Eric J. Woehler
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Australian Weather and Climate ResearchAustralian Bureau of MeteorologyMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Research DepartmentPhillip Island Nature ParksPhillip IslandAustralia
  3. 3.Veterinary and Life SciencesMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  4. 4.IMAS, University of TasmaniaSandy BayAustralia

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