Oceanography and seabird foraging: within-season impacts of increasing sea-surface temperature on the Great Barrier Reef

Weeks , S.J., Steinberg, C., and Congdon, B.C. (2013) Oceanography and seabird foraging: within-season impacts of increasing sea-surface temperature on the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 490. pp. 247-254.

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Previously we have demonstrated that prey availability to seabirds of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) decreases in direct association with within-season increases in sea-surface temperature, independent of prevailing El Niño conditions. These negative impacts occur throughout the GBR and affect multiple seabird species. Currently, the oceanic processes driving these impacts or the potential for them to occur in other marine systems are unknown. Here, we use satellite and in situ data obtained during a thermal stress event to identify the within-season links between ocean dynamics and seabird foraging success on the southern GBR. In February 2006, a major mesoscale eddy formed coastward of the East Australian Current flow, adjacent to our study site. In mid-February, strengthening of this eddy caused an intrusion of cool, dense waters at depth across the GBR shelf. This intrusion intensified vertical stratification and caused a pronounced warming of sea-surface layers. Prey availability to seabirds significantly decreased during this period and remained low until eddy intensity decreased and surface waters cooled. Prey availability increased following this episode, clearly indicating that loss of prey was associated with a short-term vertical and/or horizontal redistribution of forage-fish, or subsurface predators, rather than an overall decrease in productivity linked to seasonal-scale El Niño processes.

Item ID: 28811
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1599
Keywords: El Niño, eddy dynamics, wedge-tailed shearwater, Ardenna pacifica, Great Barrier Reef, sea-surface temperature, east Australia Current, climate change
Funders: Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility (MTSRF), National Environmental Research Program, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: LP0562157
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2013 22:32
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 60%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 10%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts) @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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