Blue Point, United States
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Fontana R.E.,University of California at Davis | Elliott M.L.,Point Blue Conservation Science | Largier J.L.,University of California at Davis | Jahncke J.,Point Blue Conservation Science
Progress in Oceanography | Year: 2016

Zooplankton abundance and species composition provide information on environmental variability in the ocean. While zooplankton time series span the west coast of North America, less data exist off north-central California. Here, we investigated a zooplankton time series, focusing specifically on copepods, collected within the Gulf of the Farallones-Cordell Bank area (37.5° to 38.5°N) from 2004 to 2009. Impacted by seasonally strong, persistent upwelling, this study area is located downstream of a major upwelling center (Point Arena). We found copepod abundance and species composition differed significantly, particularly between the first three years (2004-2006) and the latter three years (2007-2009) of the study. These changes were mainly observed as changes in abundance of boreal copepod species, Pseudocalanus mimus and Acartia longiremis. These taxa showed increasing abundances for the latter three years of the study (2007-2009). During the first three years of the time series, environmental measurements in the region showed lower alongshore wind stress, weaker upwelling, minimal surface alongshore flow, and warmer surface ocean temperatures. Temporal variations in copepod abundance and species composition correlated with several of these environmental measurements (e.g., surface cross-shore and alongshore flows, upwelling, and alongshore wind stress), indicating environmental forcing of primary consumers and ecosystem productivity in this strong, persistent upwelling zone. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

Lescroel A.,University of Rennes 1 | Lescroel A.,CNRS Center of Evolutionary and Functional Ecology | Ballard G.,Point Blue Conservation Science | Gremillet D.,CNRS Center of Evolutionary and Functional Ecology | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

In the context of predicted alteration of sea ice cover and increased frequency of extreme events, it is especially timely to investigate plasticity within Antarctic species responding to a key environmental aspect of their ecology: sea ice variability. Using 13 years of longitudinal data, we investigated the effect of sea ice concentration (SIC) on the foraging efficiency of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) breeding in the Ross Sea. A 'natural experiment' brought by the exceptional presence of giant icebergs during 5 consecutive years provided unprecedented habitat variation for testing the effects of extreme events on the relationship between SIC and foraging efficiency in this sea-ice dependent species. Significant levels of phenotypic plasticity were evident in response to changes in SIC in normal environmental conditions. Maximum foraging efficiency occurred at relatively low SIC, peaking at 6.1% and decreasing with higher SIC. The 'natural experiment' uncoupled efficiency levels from SIC variations. Our study suggests that lower summer SIC than currently observed would benefit the foraging performance of Adélie penguins in their southernmost breeding area. Importantly, it also provides evidence that extreme climatic events can disrupt response plasticity in a wild seabird population. This questions the predictive power of relationships built on past observations, when not only the average climatic conditions are changing but the frequency of extreme climatic anomalies is also on the rise. © 2014 Lescroël et al.

Schmidt A.E.,University of California at Davis | Botsford L.W.,University of California at Davis | Eadie J.M.,University of California at Davis | Bradley R.W.,Point Blue Conservation Science | And 2 more authors.
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2014

The impacts of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) on the ecology of the northeast Pacific are well known. However, recently there has been a shift in the dominance of El Niño events from the eastern Pacific (canonical) El Niño, to the central Pacific (Modoki) El Niño, concurrent with a strengthening of the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO). Our examination of ocean conditions and seabird reproductive success in central California shows that the way these physical factors affect the pelagic food web is also changing. Reproduction of Cassin's auklet Ptycoramphus aleuticus and Brandt's cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus, species that forage at different trophic levels, responded primarily to ENSO variability from the 1970s to the 1990s. By 1995, however, NPGO had become the dominant variable determining Cassin's auklet reproductive success. Eventually, NPGO also became correlated with Brandt's cormorant success but in the opposite direction to Cassin's auklet. Thus, during the mid-1990s, the correlation between the reproduction of these 2 species weakened and eventually became inversely correlated. This shift from coherent reproduction, presumably bottom-up driven, to an inverse relationship between the 2 species suggests that the structure of the local marine food web changed as the equatorial forcing changed. This non-stationary response of seabirds to physical forcing is cause for concern since predictions of future ecosystem productivity and effects of climate change rely on the assumption that a species' response to environmental conditions is consistent over time. © The authors 2014. Open Access under Creative Commons by Attribution Licence.

Betts M.G.,Oregon State University | Fahrig L.,Carleton University | Hadley A.S.,Oregon State University | Halstead K.E.,Oregon State University | And 5 more authors.
Ecography | Year: 2014

Theoretical models predict strong influences of habitat loss and fragmentation on species distributions and demography, but empirical studies have shown relatively inconsistent support across species and systems. We argue that species' responses to landscape-scale habitat loss and fragmentation are likely to appear less idiosyncratic if it is recognized that species perceive the same landscapes in different ways. We present a new quantitative approach that uses species distribution models (SDMs) to measure landscapes (e.g. patch size, isolation, matrix amount) from the perspective of individual species. First, we briefly summarize the few efforts to date demonstrating that once differences in habitat distributions are controlled, consistencies in species' responses to landscape structure emerge. Second, we present a detailed example providing step-by-step methods for application of a species-centered approach using freely available land-cover data and recent statistical modeling approaches. Third, we discuss pitfalls in current applications of the approach and recommend avenues for future developments. We conclude that the species-centered approach offers considerable promise as a means to test whether sensitivity to habitat loss and fragmentation is mediated by phylogenetic, ecological, and life-history traits. Cross-species generalities in responses to habitat loss and fragmentation will be challenging to uncover unless landscape mosaics are defined using models that reflect differing species-specific distributions, functional connectivity, and domains of scale. The emergence of such generalities would not only enhance scientific understanding of biotic processes driving fragmentation effects, but would allow managers to estimate species sensitivities in new regions. © 2014 The Authors.

LaRue M.A.,University of Minnesota | Lynch H.J.,State University of New York at Stony Brook | Lyver P.O.B.,Landcare Research | Barton K.,BartonK Solutions | And 4 more authors.
Polar Biology | Year: 2014

Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) are important predators of krill (Euphausia spp.) and Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarctica) during summer, are a key indicator of the status of the Southern Ocean ecosystem, and are therefore a focal species for the Committee for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) Ecosystem Monitoring Program. The ability to monitor the population size of species potentially affected by Southern Ocean fisheries, i.e., the Adélie penguin, is critical for effective management of those resources. However, for several reasons, direct estimates of population size are not possible in many locations around Antarctica. In this study, we combine high-resolution (0.6 m) satellite imagery with spectral analysis in a supervised classification to estimate the sizes of Adélie penguin breeding colonies along Victoria Land in the Ross Sea and on the Antarctic Peninsula. Using satellite images paired with concurrent ground counts, we fit a generalized linear mixed model with Poisson errors to predict the abundance of breeding pairs as a function of the area of current-year guano staining identified in the satellite imagery. Guano-covered area proved to be an effective proxy for the number of penguins residing within. Our model provides a robust, quantitative mechanism for estimating the breeding population size of colonies captured in imagery and identifies terrain slope as a significant component influencing apparent nesting density. While our high-resolution satellite imagery technique was developed for the Adélie penguin, these principles are directly transferrable to other colonially nesting seabirds and other species that aggregate in fixed localities. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Lyver P.O'B.,Landcare Research | Barron M.,Landcare Research | Barton K.J.,Bartonk Solutions | Ainley D.G.,H. T. Harvey and Associates Ecological Consultants | And 4 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Measurements of the size of Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) colonies of the southern Ross Sea are among the longest biologic time series in the Antarctic. We present an assessment of recent annual variation and trends in abundance and growth rates of these colonies, adding to the published record not updated for more than two decades. High angle oblique aerial photographic surveys of colonies were acquired and penguins counted for the breeding seasons 1981-2012. In the last four years the numbers of Adélie penguins in the Ross and Beaufort Island colonies (southern Ross Sea metapopulation) reached their highest levels since aerial counts began in 1981. Results indicated that 855,625 pairs of Adélie penguins established breeding territories in the western Ross Sea, with just over a quarter (28%) of those in the southern portion, constituting a semi-isolated metapopulation (three colonies on Ross Island, one on nearby Beaufort Island). The southern population had a negative per capita growth rate of -0.019 during 1981-2000, followed by a positive per capita growth rate of 0.067 for 2001-2012. Colony growth rates for this metapopulation showed striking synchrony through time, indicating that large-scale factors influenced their annual growth. In contrast to the increased colony sizes in the southern population, the patterns of change among colonies of the northern Ross Sea were difficult to characterize. Trends were similar to southern colonies until the mid-1990s, after which the signal was lost owing to significantly reduced frequency of surveys. Both climate factors and recovery of whale populations likely played roles in the trends among southern colonies until 2000, after which depletion of another trophic competitor, the Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni), may explain the sharp increasing trend evident since then. © 2014 Lyver et al.

Michael P.E.,Hawaii Pacific University | Jahncke J.,Point Blue Conservation Science | Hyrenbach K.D.,Hawaii Pacific University
Fisheries Oceanography | Year: 2014

Effective conservation of highly mobile species requires an understanding of the factors that influence their habitat use patterns, locally and within a large-scale oceanographic context. We characterized the seasonal (chick-rearing, post-breeding) and inter-annual (2004-2008) distribution and abundance of black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes; BFAL) along the central California continental shelf/slope using standardized vessel-based surveys. We used a hypothesis-based information-theoretic approach to quantify the relative influence of environmental conditions on BFAL occurrence and abundance by assessing their association with: (i) local static bathymetric features, (ii) local and regional dynamic oceanographic processes, and (iii) seasonal and inter-annual basin-wide variability. While the presence/absence models yielded stronger results than the abundance models, both revealed that static and dynamic features influence BFAL habitat use. Specifically, occurrence was greatest near the shelf-break, particularly in months with strong upwelling. High BFAL densities were associated with Rittenburg Bank, especially during the chick-rearing season, periods of positive North Pacific Gyre Oscillation index and large northern monthly upwelling, evidenced by cool, salty waters in the study area. BFAL aggregation intensity was greatest onshore of the shelf-break (200 m isobath). Behavioral observations reinforced the notion that transiting BFAL are widely dispersed near the shelf-break and concentrate in large flocks of birds sitting on the water farther onshore. These results underscore the need to consider oceanographic processes at multiple spatial scales when interpreting changes in BFAL dispersion within marine sanctuaries, and highlight the feasibility of implementing bathymetrically defined protected areas targeting predictable BFAL aggregations within these larger management jurisdictions. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Elliott M.L.,Point Blue Conservation Science | Bradley R.W.,Point Blue Conservation Science | Robinette D.P.,Point Blue Conservation Science | Jahncke J.,Point Blue Conservation Science
Journal of Marine Systems | Year: 2015

The population, productivity and diet of two Brandt's cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) colonies located in the central California Current were compared. The offshore colony on Southeast Farallon Island has experienced a declining population over time and anomalously low productivity in recent years. The nearshore colony near Point Arguello has been increasing and its productivity has remained stable. The diets of cormorants at the two colonies elucidated by analysis of regurgitated pellets, while different, have shown similar decreases in the consumption of northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) since 2008, followed by increased consumption of rockfish (Sebastes spp.) and flatfish (order Pleuronectiformes). By using the diet results from another seabird nesting in central California, the rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata), and one from which whole fish can be obtained, we found that the rockfish species assemblage has changed with offshore rockfish species decreasing while nearshore ones have increased. This change in the rockfish species has negatively impacted Brandt's cormorants at the offshore colony by forcing them to make longer foraging trips to meet energy needs of themselves and their chicks; this has led to low breeding success and a declining population at this site. On the other hand, the nearshore colony has abundant nearby food resources, and it has prospered. These results underscore the value of using seabird data from multiple colonies to better understand changes occurring in the marine environment. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Burnett R.D.,Point Blue Conservation Science | Roberts L.J.,Point Blue Conservation Science
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Whether by design or default, single species management often serves as an umbrella for species with similar habitat requirements. In recent decades the focus of National Forest management in the Sierra Nevada of California has shifted towards increasing closed canopy mature forest conditions through the protection of areas occupied by the California Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis). To evaluate the implications of these habitat changes and the potential umbrella resulting from a system of owl reserves on the broader avian community, we estimated occupancy of birds inside and outside of Spotted Owl Home Range Core Areas in northeastern California. We used point count data in a multispecies hierarchical Bayesian model incorporating the detection history of 81 species over a two-year time period (2005-2006). A small set of vegetation cover and topography covariates were included in the model to account for broad differences in habitat conditions, as well as a term identifying whether or not a site was within a Core Area. Seventeen species had a negative Core Area effect, seven had a positive effect, and the rest were not significant. Estimated species richness was significantly different with 23.1 species per 100 m radius circle outside Core Areas and 21.7 inside Core Areas. The majority of the species negatively associated with Core Areas are tied to early successional and other disturbance-dependent habitats. Conservation and climate vulnerability rankings were mixed. On average we found higher scores (greater risk) for the species positively associated with Core Areas, but a larger number of species with the highest scores were negatively associated with Core Areas. We discuss the implications for managing the Sierra Nevada ecosystem and illustrate the role of monitoring broader suites of species in guiding management of large complex ecosystems. © 2015 Burnett, Roberts.

McGowan J.,San Francisco State University | Hines E.,San Francisco State University | Elliott M.,Point Blue Conservation Science | Howar J.,Point Blue Conservation Science | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Understanding seabird habitat preferences is critical to future wildlife conservation and threat mitigation in California. The objective of this study was to investigate drivers of seabird habitat selection within the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries to identify areas for targeted conservation planning. We used seabird abundance data collected by the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies Program (ACCESS) from 2004-2011. We used zero-inflated negative binomial regression to model species abundance and distribution as a function of near surface ocean water properties, distances to geographic features and oceanographic climate indices to identify patterns in foraging habitat selection. We evaluated seasonal, inter-annual and species-specific variability of at-sea distributions for the five most abundant seabirds nesting on the Farallon Islands: western gull (Larus occidentalis), common murre (Uria aalge), Cassin's auklet (Ptychorampus aleuticus), rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) and Brandt's cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus). The waters in the vicinity of Cordell Bank and the continental shelf east of the Farallon Islands emerged as persistent and highly selected foraging areas across all species. Further, we conducted a spatial prioritization exercise to optimize seabird conservation areas with and without considering impacts of current human activities. We explored three conservation scenarios where 10, 30 and 50 percent of highly selected, species-specific foraging areas would be conserved. We compared and contrasted results in relation to existing marine protected areas (MPAs) and the future alternative energy footprint identified by the California Ocean Uses Atlas. Our results show that the majority of highly selected seabird habitat lies outside of state MPAs where threats from shipping, oil spills, and offshore energy development remain. This analysis accentuates the need for innovative marine spatial planning efforts and provides a foundation on which to build more comprehensive zoning and management in California's National Marine Sanctuaries. © 2013 McGowan et al.

Loading Point Blue Conservation science collaborators
Loading Point Blue Conservation science collaborators