Structure and variability of the marine-bird community in the northeastern Chukchi Sea

We examined the seasonal and interannual variation in the marine-bird community and its relationship to physical oceanography in the northeastern Chukchi Sea in 2008–2010 as part of a multi-year, inter-disciplinary study. We sampled 3 study areas, each 3000 km2, located in the offshore northeastern Chukchi Sea: Klondike, Burger, and Statoil. We quantified the marine habitat by measuring strength of stratification, depth of the mixed layer, and temperature and salinity in the upper mixed layer. The total density of seabirds was the highest in 2009, when warm (5–6 1C), moderately saline (31–31.5) Bering Sea Water (BSW) extended across Burger and Klondike at all depths. Bird density was generally higher in Klondike than in Burger in 2008 and 2009; densities did not differ significantly among study areas in 2010, when BSW covered all 3 study areas. The relative abundance of alcids in all study areas combined increased from 2008 to 2010. Klondike was numerically dominated by alcids and tubenoses in all years, whereas Burger was numerically dominated by larids and tubenoses in 2008 and by alcids in 2009 and 2010; Statoil also was numerically dominated by alcids in 2010. Least auklets, crested auklets, and northern fulmars were positively associated with strong stratification and high salinity (431) in the upper mixed layer, characteristics that indicated the presence of BSW. Phalaropes were positively associated with salinity but negatively associated with stratification, suggesting that well-mixed water provides better foraging opportunities for these surface-feeding planktivores. The distribution and abundance of marine birds, particularly the planktivorous species, is influenced by advective processes that transport oceanic species of zooplankton from the Bering Sea to the Chukchi Sea. This transport apparently differed among years and resulted in a broader northeastward intrusion of Bering Sea Water and greater total abundance of planktivorous seabirds in the region in 2009 than in 2008 or 2010.

Gall, A. E., R. H. Day, and T. J. Weingartner. 2013. Structure and variability of the marine-bird community in the northeastern Chukchi Sea. Continental Shelf Research 67: 96–115. <http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2012.11.004>

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