Novel conservation strategies--needed today for marine wildlife, including seabirds--call for marine science that spans large geographic areas, along with intensive work in smaller regions. Marine predators generally are highly mobile. Without the larger context, monitoring ecosystem health in a single region may prove misleading.
|Tufted Puffin. Photo by Arthur Morris/VIREO|
Recognizing this, PRBO's Marine Ecology Division has expanded greatly in geographic scope over recent years, fueled in part by new staff with international interests and in part by new partnerships and collaborative projects with agencies from other countries.
· PRBO and collaborators from the Canadian Wildlife Service and Island Conservation are studying the effects of climate change and variability on Cassin's Auklets from the Baja peninsula to British Columbia--a new perspective on the entire California Current System.
· With collaborators from Hokkaido University, Japan, and Canadian Wildlife Service, we are examining the diet of Rhinoceros Auklets across the North Pacific, relating this species' prey selection to apparent marine climate cycles.
· In Peru, in collaboration with Instituto del Mar del Peru and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, we will model seabird take of anchoveta, once the largest fishery in the world, to provide a basis for managing this fishery from an ecosystem perspective.
· With scientists from South Korea, China, Japan, Canada, and the Russian Federation, we are working under the auspices of the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) to design new strategies for monitoring North Pacific marine ecosystems, in support of international fisheries management and biodiversity conservation.
|Tufted Puffins' North Pacific distribution reaches from British Columbia to Japan.|
One of PRBO's largest collaborative marine studies today literally takes us across the marine horizon. Again under the auspices of PICES, and supported by the North Pacific Research Board, we have studied plankton and seabird communities, since 2002, along 7,500 kilometers of ocean habitat from British Columbia to Japan. Along with science partners from several institutions,* this project involves the generosity and good will of the shipping industry, in particular SeaBoard Ltd. Their vessels tow our plankton sampling device and allow a PRBO biologist aboard to count birds.
* Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in England, University of Alaska at Fairbanks, University of British Columbia, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.
Surveying birds on the open North Pacific from a 600-foot ship is no easy task, but there are huge advantages to working at such a large scale. For example, our surveys have revealed the importance of the southern Bering Sea and Aleutian Archipelago, in summer, and (remarkably) of open ocean habitats in the Gulf of Alaska and east of Kamchatka Peninsula, in winter and fall--to Tufted Puffins. Although not apparent from the data mapped above, we have found approximately three times more puffins in the western than in the eastern North Pacific, possibly due to greater food resources.
This work also highlights the importance of such habitats to a variety of other seabird species, some listed as threatened or endangered, and it pinpoints where negative human-seabird interactions may be having a large effect.
In the near future, we aim to compare seabirds' responses to climate changes, using data obtained from the Barents Sea, Norway, to the Peru Current and Antarctic Peninsula--a near-global area.
Seabirds, as the most conspicuous of all marine organisms, can be used effectively as indicators of global ecosystem changes and to address pervasive threats facing the oceans and society today.