Despite its great distance from productive shelf-edge habitat, the inner shelf area of the Bering Sea, from St. Lawrence Island to the Bering Strait, supports a surprisingly large number (>5 million) of seabirds during summer, mostly small plantivorous auklets (65%) and large piscivorous murres (19%) and kittiwakes (5%). This paradox of seabird biogeography is explained by the Anadyr "Green Belt" - a current that advects nutrients and plankton over 1200 km from the outer Bering Sea shelf-edge to the central Chukchi Sea. Turbulent upwelling of this nutrient-rich water at Anadyr and Bering straits further enhances high levels of primary production:(360 gC m-2y-1) and helps sustain the enormous biomass of zooplankton entrained in the Anadyr Current. Primary production in adjacent waters of the Chukchi Sea (420 gC m-2y-1) exceeds that observed below Bering Strait, and zooplankton are equally abundant. Auklets account for 49% of total food consumption below Bering Strait (411 mt d-1), whereas piscivores dominate (88% of 179 mt d-1) in the Chukchi Sea. Of 2 million seabirds in the Chukchi region, auklets (6%) are supplanted by planktivorous phalaropes (25%), and piscivorous murres (38%) and kittiwakes (15%). Average carbon flux to seabirds (0.65 mgC m -2d-1) over the whole region is more typical of upwelling than shelf ecosystems. The pelagic distribution of seabirds in the region appears to be a function of advection, productivity and water column stability. Planktivores flourish in areas with high zooplankton concentrations on the edge of productive upwelling and frontal zones along the "Green Belt", whereas piscivores avoid turbulent, mixed waters and forage in stable, stratified waters along the coast and in the central Chukchi Sea.
Additional publication details
Advection, pelagic food webs and the biogeography of seabirds in Beringia