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Oceanographic and climatic factors differentially affect reproduction performance of Antarctic skuas

Hahn, S.M. and Reinhardt, K. and Ritz, M.S. and Janicke, T. and Montalti, D. and Peter, H.-U. (2007) Oceanographic and climatic factors differentially affect reproduction performance of Antarctic skuas. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 334, 287-297. ISSN 0171-8630.

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We studied how environmental conditions affect reproduction in sympatric skua species that differ in their reliance on marine resources: the exclusively marine foraging south polar skua Catharacta maccormicki, the terrestrially foraging brown skua C. antarctica lonnbergi and mixed species pairs with an intermediate diet. Egg size, clutch asymmetry and hatching dates varied between species and years without consistent patterns. In the south polar skuas, 12 to 38% of the variation in these parameters was explained by sea surface temperature, sea ice cover and local weather. In mixed species pairs and brown skuas, the influence of environmental factors on variation in clutch asymmetry and hatching date decreased to 10–29%, and no effect on egg size was found. Annual variation in offspring growth performance also differed between species with variable growth in chicks of south polar skuas and mixed species pairs, and almost uniform growth in brown skuas. Additionally, the dependency on oceanographic and climatic factors, especially local wind conditions, decreased from south polar skuas to brown skua chicks. Consistent in all species, offspring were more sensitive to environmental conditions during early stages; during the late chick stage (>33 d) chick growth was almost independent of environmental conditions. The net breeding success could not be predicted by any environmental factor in any skua species, suggesting it may not be a sensitive indicator of environmental conditions. Hence, the sensitivity of skuas to environmental conditions varied between species, with south polar skuas being more sensitive than brown skuas, and between breeding periods, with the egg parameters being more susceptible to oceanographic conditions. However, during offspring development, local climatic conditions became more important. We conclude that future climate change in the Maritime Antarctic will affect reproduction of skuas more strongly through changes in sea ice cover and sea surface temperature (and the resulting alterations to the marine food web) than through local weather conditions.

Item Type:Article
Institutes:Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (NIOO)
ID Code:4484
Deposited On:15 Sep 2009 02:00
Last Modified:15 Jan 2014 09:20

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