We used satellite telemetry, remotely sensed data (bathymetry, chlorophyll a (chl a), sea-surface temperature (SST), wind speed) and first-passage time (FPT) analysis to determine the distribution, movement patterns, and habitat associations of short-tailed albatrosses (Phoebastria albatrus) during the non-breeding season, 2002 and 2003. Satellite transmitters were deployed on birds immediately prior to their departure from a breeding colony at Torishima, Japan (n = 11), or at-sea in the Aleutian Islands (n = 3). Tracking durations ranged from 51 to 138 days for a total of 6709 locations after filtering (131 - 808 per bird). FPT (time required to transit a circle of given radius) revealed the location and spatial scale of area-restricted search (ARS) patterns along flight paths. On average, ARS occurred within 70 km radii. Consequently, the fit of the habitat use models increased at spatial scales beyond a 40 km FPT radius (R2 = 0.31) and stabilized for scales of 70 km and larger (R2=0.40- 0.51). At all scales, wind speed, depth or depth gradient, and chl a or chl a gradient had a significant effect on FPT (i.e., residence time). FPT increased within regions of higher gradients of depth and chl a. In contrast, FPT decreased within regions of greater depth and wind speed, with a significant interaction of wind speed and depth at some scales. Sea-surface temperature or its interactions were only significant at large spatial scales (???160 km FPT radius). Albatrosses engaged in ARS activities primarily over the shelf break and slope, including Kuroshio and Oyashio regions off the western subarctic gyre. Occasionally, birds transited the northern boundary of the Kuroshio Extension while in-route to the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea, but overall spent little time in the western gyre. In the Aleutian Islands, ARS occurred within straits, particularly along the central and western part of the archipelago. In the Bering Sea, ARS occurred along the northern continental shelf break, the Kamchatka Current region, and east of the Commander Islands. Non-breeding short-tailed albatross concentrate foraging in oceanic areas characterized by gradients in topography and water column productivity. This study provides an understanding of the foraging ecology for a highly migratory, imperiled seabird, and confirms the importance of shelf break and slope regions as hot spots for a variety of top marine predators in the North Pacific.
Additional Publication Details
Foraging destinations and marine habitat use of short-tailed albatrosses: A multi-scale approach using first-passage time analysis
Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography