Long-term dataset reveals declines in breeding success and high fluctuations in the number of breeding pairs in two skua species breeding on King George Island


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simeon.lisovski [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

Marine ecosystems face a variety of threats induced by environmental changes and anthropogenic activities. Seabirds are predators often used as indicator species to monitor the status and health of their communities and the environment. Here, we present the results from a 35-year monitoring time series of Brown Skuas (Catharacta antarctica lonnbergi) and South Polar Skuas (C. maccormicki) breeding sympatrically in the Maritime Antarctic on Fildes Peninsula and Potter Peninsula, King George Island. Our results reveal high annual variability in the number and proportions of breeding pairs across the entire study period. Apart from that, the breeding pair numbers of Brown Skuas were relatively stable. By contrast, the breeding pair number of mixed species and South Polar Skua pairs increased substantially until 2003/2004 and 2010/2011, respectively. Both pair types experienced a decline in the breeding pair numbers within recent years. Despite the strong fluctuations in the number of breeding pairs, the sum of occupied territories has been stable during the last 9 years. The breeding success of all pair types declined significantly, and within recent years, both South Polar Skuas and mixed species pairs completely failed to produce offspring. The ultimate causes driving the breeding success decline remain unclear. The overall increase in the number of skuas might have raised density-dependent factors and resulted in a higher predation rate between conspecifics. The more recent total breeding failures, however, indicate a drastic shortage in local food availability.



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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Published
Eprint ID
52134
DOI 10.1007/s00300-015-1808-7

Cite as
Krietsch, J. , Esefeld, J. , Braun, C. , Lisovski, S. and Peter, H. U. (2016): Long-term dataset reveals declines in breeding success and high fluctuations in the number of breeding pairs in two skua species breeding on King George Island , Polar Biology, 39 (4), pp. 573-582 . doi: 10.1007/s00300-015-1808-7


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