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Response of seabirds to fluctuations in forage fish density

January 1, 2002

Following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS), one concern was that prevailing ecological conditions in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) would not favor recovery of damaged seabird populations. To address this issue, we examined relationships between oceanography, forage fish and seabirds near three seabird colonies in lower Cook Inlet (LCI) in 1995-1999 (some colony work continued until 2001). Upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich GOA waters at the entrance to the shallow LCI estuary supports a high density of juvenile pollock, sand lance, and capelin; which in turn are exploited by high densities of breeding seabirds (murres, kittiwakes, puffins, etc.) on the east side of LCI. Waters on the west side of LCI are oceanographically distinct (warmer, less saline, outflowing), and much less productive for forage fish and seabirds. Patterns of seabird foraging behavior, productivity and population change reflected patterns of forage fish abundance and distribution, which in turn depended on local oceanography. Most seabird parameters varied with forage fish density in a non-linear (e.g., sigmoidal, exponential) fashion, and in some areas and years, productivity was limited by food availability.  Current and projected ecological conditions favor recovery of seabirds from the EVOS at some colonies. In 14 chapters, this report summarizes data and compiles it into 247 tables, figures and appendices. Chapter 14 provides a thorough synthesis of overall project findings. Final analyses and interpretations of data will be published later in peer-reviewed journals (in addition to 61 articles already completed).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2002
Title Response of seabirds to fluctuations in forage fish density
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70188547
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center

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