Abundance, distribution and population status of Marbled Murrelets in Alaska

By:  and 
Edited by: C. John RalphGeorge L. Hunt Jr.Martin G. Raphael, and John F. Piatt


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Ship-based surveys conducted throughout Alaska during the 1970's and 1980's, and more recent small boat surveys conducted in the northern Gulf of Alaska, suggest that about 280,000 murrelets reside in Alaska during summer. Most Marbled Murrelets are concentrated offshore of large tracts of coastal coniferous forests in southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound, and the Kodiak Archipelago. About 1-3 percent of murrelets breed wholly outside of forested areas in Alaska, and these presumably all nest on the ground. At sea, murrelets tend to occupy sheltered waters of bays, fiords, and island straits, and often aggregate near large river outflows or tide rips. Small boat surveys of Prince William Sound and Christmas Bird Count trends suggest that Marbled Murrelet populations in Alaska declined by about 50 percent between 1972 and 1992. Population declines may have resulted from cumulative effects of oil pollution, gill netting, logging of old-growth breeding habitat, and natural changes in the marine environment. The Exxon Valdez oil spill killed an estimated 8,400 murrelets in 1989, or about 3 percent of the Alaska population. The toll from chronic pollution is unknown. About 3300 murrelets (89 percent adult) die annually in fishing nets in Alaska - a sustained adult mortality rate of 1.5 percent per annum. The extent or effect on murrelets of logging in Alaska are unknown. While only 7 percent of the old-growth has been harvested in the Tongass National Forest, about 40 percent of the highly productive old-growth in the forest has already been logged. A decline in forage fish populations in the Gulf of Alaska during the last 20 years may account for reduced breeding success and population size of several seabird species, including murrelets. Murrelet populations should be sensitive to small increases in adult mortality from the above factors because production by murrects is low and must therefore be balanced by a low annual adult mortality rate.

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Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Abundance, distribution and population status of Marbled Murrelets in Alaska
Chapter 28
Year Published 1995
Language English
Publisher USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station
Publisher location Albany, CA
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 10 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype Federal Government Series
Larger Work Title Ecology and conservation of the marbled Murrelet (USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PSW-GTR-j52)
First page 285
Last page 294
Country United States
State Alaska
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