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A bird-eye view on the spatio-temporal variability of the seasonal cycle in the Northern Humboldt Current System : the case of Guanay cormorant, Peruvian booby and Peruvian pelican

Abstract : The Northern Humboldt Current System (NHCS) is a place of a high biological activity due to an intense coastal upwelling. It supports one of the biggest forage fish populations, the Peruvian anchovy, and the world-leading monospecific fishery in terms of landings. The NHCS also hosts large, although variable, seabird populations, composed among others by three guano-producing sympatric species: the Guanay cormorant (Phalacrocorax bougainvillii), the Peruvian booby (Sula variegata) and the Peruvian pelican (Pelecanus thagus), which all feed primarily on anchovy.In this work we reviewed the fluctuations of these three seabird populations, focusing on the seasonal cycle of their breeding, to address the following questions: How different are the seasonality of reproduction among species? To what extent may they be plastic in space and time? What from the natural environment and the anthropogenic activities impact more the breeding of seabirds?We addressed these questions using the monthly occupancy of breeders (1) in >30 Peruvian sites between 06°S and 18°S and from 2003 to 2014; and (2) in one site during three decadal periods (1952-1968, 1972-1989, 2003-2014). We also used environmental covariates from satellite and at-sea monitoring such as oceanographic conditions, prey abundance, availability and body conditions, and fisheries pressure covariates. We used multiseason occupancy models to characterize the seasonality of breeding and relate it with environmental covariates. We also used functional principal component analysis for classifying the differences in seasonality among sites, and random forest regression for analyzing the relative contribution of covariates in the variability of the seasonal breeding.We found that in average seasonal breeding mainly started during the austral winter/ early spring and ended in summer/ early fall, this pattern being stronger in boobies and pelicans than in cormorants. The breeding onset of seabirds is timed so that fledging independence occurs when primary production, prey conditions and availability are maximized. This pattern is unique compared with other upwelling ecosystems and could be explained by the year-round high abundances of anchovy in the NHCS.The average seasonal breeding may differ among nesting sites. Seabirds breed earlier and are more persistent when colonies are larger, located on islands, within the first 20km of the coast, at lower latitudes and with greater primary production conditions. These results suggest that in the NHCS, the seasonality of breeding is more influenced by local environmental conditions than by large-scale environmental gradients. These results provides critical information to a better coordination of guano extraction and conservancy policies.Seabirds may also adapt the seasonality of their breeding to drastic ecosystem changes caused by regime shifts. We found that the three study species exhibited a gradient of plasticity regarding the seasonality of their breeding. Cormorants showed a greater plasticity, modulating the timing and magnitude on their breeding seasonality. This is probably authorized by the greater foraging flexibility offered its great diving capacities. Fixed onset and magnitudes of breeding in boobies may be related to their specific foraging strategy and/or to changes of prey items when anchovy stock was low. We also suggested that boobies may adapt other fecundity traits as growth rate of chicks to lower abundance of anchovy.The specific differences in the adaptation of seasonal breeding allow seabirds to take profit differently from local prey conditions or to face differently regime shifts. Further researches, implementing a large-scale capture-recapture methodology in parallel with monthly census, are proposed in order to fulfill gaps in the basic knowledge on vital traits (adult survival, first age at reproduction, and juvenile recruitment) which are critical parameters to evaluate the dynamic of a population.
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Giannina Paola Passuni Saldana. A bird-eye view on the spatio-temporal variability of the seasonal cycle in the Northern Humboldt Current System : the case of Guanay cormorant, Peruvian booby and Peruvian pelican. Ecosystems. Université Montpellier, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016MONTT161⟩. ⟨tel-01686594⟩

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