Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8433
Title: Temporal shifts in seabird populations and spatial coherence with prey in the southeastern Bering Sea
Author: R. M. Suryan, Kathy J. Kuletz, Sandra L. Parker-Stetter, P. H. Ressler, Martin Renner, John K. Horne, Edward V. Farley, Elizabeth A. Labunski
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Marine Ecology Progress Series
Volume: 549
Pages: 199-215
DOI: doi: 10.3354/meps11653
Keywords: Bering Sea,sea birds,forage fish,distribution,acoustics

The Bering Sea is a highly productive ecosystem with abundant prey populations in the summer that support some of the largest seabird colonies in the world.  In the fall, the Bering Sea supports large numbers of migrants and post-breeding birds.  We used over 22,000 km of vessel-based surveys during summer (June-July) and fall (late August-October) of 2008-2010 within a 400,000 km2 study area to examine annual and seasonal changes in seabird communities and spatial relationships with concurrently sampled prey in the southeastern Bering Sea. Deep diving murres (Uria spp.), shallow-diving shearwaters (Puffinus spp.), and surface foraging Northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and kittiwakes (Rissa spp.) dominated summer and fall seabird communities.  Seabird species richness was lower in summer than fall and seabird densities in summer were generally less than half of fall densities.  Summer seabird densities had high interannual variation (highest in 2009), whereas fall densities varied little among years.  Seabirds were more spatially clustered around breeding colonies and the outer continental shelf in the summer and then dispersed within the middle and inner shelf in fall.  In summer, age-1 walleye pollock, Gadus chalcogrammus along with spatial (latitude and longitude) and temporal (year) variables best explained broad-scale seabird distribution.  In contrast, seabirds in fall had fewer associations with spatial and temporal variables and more associations with different prey species or groups.  Our results demonstrate seasonal shifts in the distribution and foraging patterns of seabirds in the southeastern Bering Sea with a greater dependence on forage fish over the middle and inner shelf in fall.


An analysis of spatial/temporal distributions of breeding and post-breeding seabirds in the Bering Sea and evaluation of potential relationships between seabird distributions and acoustic indices of prey (forage fish, euphausiid) distributions.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Characterize ecological interactions (e.g. predation, competition, parasitism, disease, etc.) within and among species.
Official Citation:

Suryan, R.M., K.J. Kuletz, S.L. Parker-Stetter, P.H. Ressler, M. Renner, J.K. Horne, E.V. Farley, and E.A. Labunski.  2016, Temporal shifts in seabird populations and spatial coherence with prey in the southeastern Bering Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 549: 199-215.