ABR Authors:
  • Adrian E. Gall

  • Alex K. Prichard

DOI:

10.1371/journal.pone.0266182

Influence of water masses on the summer structure of the seabird community in the northeastern Chukchi Sea

Gall, A. E., A. K. Prichard, K. Kuletz, and S. Danielson. 2022. Influence of water masses on the summer structure of the seabird community in the northeastern Chukchi Sea. PLoS ONE 17(4): 24 pp. e0266182. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0266182

We used data collected during a variety of research cruises in the northeastern Chukchi Sea and contributed to the Distributed Biological Observatory to explore the influence of the seasonal change in water masses on the development of the seabird community during the summer. Surveys that included seabird observations and hydrographic sampling were conducted from Alaska’s northwestern coast to ~220 km offshore during 2008–2018. Species composition varied geographically, shifting from a nearshore community that included short-tailed shearwaters, loons, and seaducks to an offshore community dominated by crested auklets. Crested auklets were remarkably consistent in their occupation of Hanna Shoal among years and remained in the area throughout the summer. Short-tailed shearwaters exhibited the greatest seasonal and interannual variation in abundance and distribution of the 35 species recorded. They were concentrated south of 71°N and within 50 km of shore in August and tended to spread throughout the region in September. Surface-feeding species like gulls, fulmars, and phalaropes were 1–2 orders of magnitude less abundant and had wider distributions than birds that feed by diving. Including information about hydrography improved the fit of models of seabird density. Seabirds, especially those that breed in the Bering Sea, generally were more abundant in areas dominated by moderate-salinity Bering Sea Water than nearshore in low-salinity Alaska Coastal Water. The distribution of seabirds across the northeastern Chukchi Sea reflected the heterogeneity of oceanic habitats and prey availability over the shallow shelf. Our results will inform efforts to develop ecosystem models that incorporate oceanographic conditions to predict ongoing consequences of climate change.