• Seabird Habitat Use And Zooplankton Abundance And Biomass In Relation To Water Mass Properties In The Northern Gulf Of Alaska

      De Sousa, Leandra; Coyle, Kenneth; Weingartner, Thomas; Barry, Ronald; Springer, Alan; Jr., George Hunt (2011)
      Understanding of biological and physical mechanisms that control the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) ecosystem is of major importance to predicting the responses of bird and zooplankton communities to environmental changes in this region. I investigated seasonal (March-October) changes in seabird abundance in relation to changes in zooplankton biomass and water mass properties from 1998 to 2003. Oceanodroma furcata and Fratercula cirrhata were most abundant during the peak of the zooplankton production season (May-August). Overall abundance of seabirds did not follow seasonal changes in zooplankton biomass. Seabird abundance was low in the study area when compared to other regions in the GOA. Furthermore, low bird densities suggest that productivity in this study area is not high enough to sustain a significant seasonal increase in local seabird abundance. I further investigated the distribution and abundance of seabird foraging guilds across the neritic and oceanic domains in relation to water mass properties and zooplankton biomass during March and April. Overall zooplankton biomass increased from the inner shelf to the oceanic domain. Highest density of subsurface-foraging seabirds occurred in the middle shelf and surface-feeding seabirds were most abundant in the middle shelf and oceanic domain. Murre (Uria spp.) abundance was positively correlated with the biomass of Thysanoessa inermis, and Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) were associated with cephalopod paralarvae and Eucalanus bungii. Elevated biomass of Thysanoessa inermis in March and April may be an important factor influencing habitat choice of wintering murres in this region. Lastly, I investigated the inter-annual variation in the abundance of sixteen zooplankton taxa in relation to water mass properties during May from 1998 to 2009. Significant variations in temperature, salinity and zooplankton abundance were identified. Thysanoessa inermis and Calanus marshallae had increased abundances in years when there was a strong phytoplankton spring bloom preceded by anomalously cold winters. However, abundances of Pseudocalanus spp., Neocalanus plumchrus/Neocalanus flemingeri, Euphausia pacifica and Oithona spp. were not strongly affected by relatively higher mean water temperatures. The abundance of zooplankton in the northern GOA was highly influenced by advective processes.