Spatial and temporal diving behavior of non-breeding common murres during two summers of contrasting ocean conditions

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
By: , and 



Successful foraging of marine predators depends on environmental conditions, which also influence prey availability. Neutral or negative El Niño Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation ocean conditions during the summer of 2013 and strongly positive conditions during the summer of 2015 in the northern California Current System provided a case study to evaluate a marine predator's response to anomalously warm conditions. We used satellite transmitters with saltwater switches to track movements and estimate dive behavior among non-breeding common murres (Uria aalge) off Oregon prior to and during a marine heatwave. We quantified differences in space-use between years, applied linear mixed models to determine environmental influences (e.g. sea surface temperature, surface salinity, chlorophyll a, ocean depth, and calendar date) on dive frequency and dive duration, and contrasted dive activity between time of day, year, and sexes. The majority of birds dispersed away from capture locations, which were situated near the southern range limit of their population. In both years, murres used the Salish Sea and the Columbia River plume; however, murres spent more time foraging in the Columbia River plume and in continental slope habitat during the marine heatwave of 2015. During 2015, dive frequency was reduced, and dive durations were almost twice as long during daytime indicating deeper or more dispersed prey. Increased dive frequency was positively associated with temperature, chlorophyll a, and crepuscular periods. Cluster analysis of dive activity and the top-ranked predictive dive duration model revealed associations between longer-duration dives and decreased dive frequency, marine slope habitat, and cooler ocean temperatures. Murres were relatively inactive throughout the night and we found no sex differences in dive activity. Changes in common murre foraging tactics were associated with ocean warming and revealed selectivity in spatial and temporal use of foraging habitats. Productive marine features including the Columbia River plume provided refuge for murres during apparently poor ocean conditions associated with the marine heatwave. Identifying refuge areas used by highly mobile species experiencing varying ocean conditions is critical for adaptive marine spatial planning that can accommodate a changing ocean climate.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spatial and temporal diving behavior of non-breeding common murres during two summers of contrasting ocean conditions
Series title Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
DOI 10.1016/j.jembe.2019.05.009
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 12 p.
First page 13
Last page 24
Country United States
State California
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