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Migration of black-naped terns in contrasted cyclonic conditions

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Abstract

Cyclones are currently increasing in frequency and intensity across the tropical regions, and such changes in cyclonic activity can adversely impact tropical marine ecosystems. To examine the potential effects of these changes on marine migrations, we tracked the annual at-sea distribution of black-naped terns from Okinawa Islands, southwest Japan (26.5° N; 127.9° E). Using light-based geolocation loggers, we compared the migration chronology of six terns between 4 years of contrasted conditions regarding cyclones (regionally called typhoons). Shortly after breeding (30 August ± 13.9 days), the birds undertook their migration across the Philippine Sea to coastal regions of Borneo and Sulawesi Islands, and seemed able to avoid or cross the storm systems. The two birds tracked in years of medium–high typhoon activity (2012–2014) seemed to target a stopover area in the northern Philippines several days after a typhoon hit. By contrast, in 2017, no strong typhoon hit in August and the four study birds showed later departure by 23.8 days, but moved significantly quicker, with little or no stopover. Arrival date at the wintering site was similar among years (1 October ± 3.5 days). Terns thus show remarkable variability in their migration chronology, presumably linked with annual storm frequency. However, the limits to this variability are currently unknown. Further, if individuals respond to environmental cues to time their migration to potentially benefit from lagged optimal feeding conditions en route, it is likely that the increase of back-to-back cyclonic events in the region may reduce the benefits of such a strategy for surface-feeding predators.

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Data availability

The bird tracks are available on BirdLife International’s Seabird Tracking Database (http://www.seabirdtracking.org/).

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the ‘Monitoring Sites 1000 Project’ of the Ministry of the Environment and funded by the Suntory Fund for Bird Conservation in 2017–2019, and Bird Migration Research Center, Yamashina Institute for Ornithology in 2012. The authors thank the field team members (Hiromi Kamigaichi and Ichihito Yamamoto of the Yambaru Wildlife Conservation Center, the Ministry of the Environment), Ui Shimabukuro for translating documents, and Akinori Takahashi for his continued support.

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Correspondence to Jean-Baptiste Thiebot.

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This research was completed under research permits from the Ministry of the Environment (No. 1705291) and Okinawa Prefectural Government (No. 62). All applicable guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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227_2020_3691_MOESM1_ESM.pdf

Suppl. Fig. 1. Map of the study region and colonies, indicating the seas and islands mentioned in the text. Suppl. Fig. 2. Monthly kernel density distribution of black-naped terns Sterna sumatrana tracked with light-based geolocators from Okinawa Islands (indicated with a triangle). The density areas encompass 50 (blue) to 95% (light blue) of the total distribution. Suppl. Fig. 3. Detailed map of each individual-year track: note apparent consistency in winter distribution within individuals across successive years. The colours vary through time to facilitate reading the movement direction: from red (departure), orange, yellow, green, blue, purple to pink (return). Suppl. Fig. 4. Utilisation of seafloor depth by the surveyed birds. Top panel: general distribution of the seafloor depth utilisation, from depths found at each bird location. Lower panel: monthly distribution of the seafloor depth utilisation. Boxes' midline show the median of each monthly dataset, with the lower and upper limits of the box being the first and third quartile (25th and 75th percentile), respectively. Notches show the confidence interval around the median. Dashed lines extend up to 1.5 times the interquartile range from the box edge to the furthest point within that distance: data beyond that distance ('outliers') are represented individually as circles. In both panels, the red dashed line indicates the -200 m mark of shelf areas. Bathymetry data were downloaded from NOAA’s ETOPO1 global relief model (https://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/wcs-client/), with 1 arc-minute resolution. Suppl. Fig. 5. Detailed account of typhoons entering the terns’ migration corridor (120–130°E), for each year across 2009–2018 (colour-coding follows Fig. 3). Suppl. Fig. 6. Detailed results of the GLMM fitted to examine the effect of typhoon distance on the birds’ decision to move. (PDF 539 kb)

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Thiebot, JB., Nakamura, N., Toguchi, Y. et al. Migration of black-naped terns in contrasted cyclonic conditions. Mar Biol 167, 83 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-020-03691-0

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