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Hobson K.A.,Environment Canada | Blight L.K.,University of British Columbia | Blight L.K.,Procellaria Research and Consulting | Arcese P.,University of British Columbia
Environmental Science and Technology | Year: 2015

Measurements of naturally occurring stable isotopes in tissues of seabirds and their prey are a powerful tool for investigating long-term changes in marine foodwebs. Recent isotopic (δ15N, δ13C) evidence from feathers of Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucescens) has shown that over the last 150 years, this species shifted from a midtrophic marine diet to one including lower trophic marine prey and/or more terrestrial or freshwater foods. However, long-term isotopic patterns of δ15N and δ13C cannot distinguish between the relative importance of lower trophic-level marine foods and terrestrial sources. We examined 48 feather stable-hydrogen (δ2H) and -sulfur (δ34S) isotope values from this same 150-year feather set and found additional isotopic evidence supporting the hypothesis that gulls shifted to terrestrial and/or freshwater prey. Mean feather δ2H and δ34S values (±SD) declined from the earliest period (1860-1915; n = 12) from -2.5 ± 21.4‰ and 18.9 ± 2.7 ‰, respectively, to -35.5 ± 15.5 ‰ and 14.8 ± 2.4 ‰, respectively, for the period 1980-2009 (n = 12). We estimated a shift of ∼30% increase in dependence on terrestrial/freshwater sources. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that gulls increased terrestrial food inputs in response to declining forage fish availability. © 2015 American Chemical Society.

Blight L.K.,University of British Columbia | Blight L.K.,Procellaria Research and Consulting | Drever M.C.,University of British Columbia | Drever M.C.,Environment Canada | Arcese P.,University of British Columbia
Condor | Year: 2015

As conspicuous midtrophic omnivores, gulls can serve as useful indicators to characterize long-term ecological changes in marine ecosystems. Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucescens) have been studied in the Georgia Basin of British Columbia, Canada, an urbanized coastal zone, since the late 1800s. We collated all available information to develop a (noncontinuous) 111-year time series of counts at breeding colonies, and combined these counts with demographic vital rates to assess how changes in historical gull egg harvesting practices, forage fish abundance, and Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) numbers affected gull population trajectories from 1900 to 2010. Mean counts at 87 breeding colonies in the Georgia Basin showed a nonlinear trend, increasing from historical low counts in the early part of the twentieth century to peak values in the 1980s, and declining thereafter to the end of the time series. Demographic models that integrated temporal trends in clutch size and nesting success, and which also included a food-related decline in first-year survival or a further reduction in nesting success as a function of eagle abundance, successfully reproduced trajectories of gull population growth rates over the study period. Glaucous-winged Gulls have thus responded to a series of changes in the Georgia Basin. These patterns are consistent with population release following cessation of egg harvesting; growing reliance by gulls on nonfish foods and resulting declines in clutch size, productivity, and first-year survival; and the effects of recovering Bald Eagle populations. These results highlight the value of compiling data from multiple retrospective studies to better understand the complex factors affecting long-term trends in animal populations. © 2015 Cooper Ornithological Society.

Williams R.,University of St. Andrews | Wright A.J.,George Mason University | Ashe E.,University of St. Andrews | Blight L.K.,Procellaria Research and Consulting | And 14 more authors.
Ocean and Coastal Management | Year: 2015

Anthropogenic underwater noise is now recognized as a world-wide problem, and recent studies have shown a broad range of negative effects in a variety of taxa. Underwater noise from shipping is increasingly recognized as a significant and pervasive pollutant with the potential to impact marine ecosystems on a global scale. We reviewed six regional case studies as examples of recent research and management activities relating to ocean noise in a variety of taxonomic groups, locations, and approaches. However, as no six projects could ever cover all taxa, sites and noise sources, a brief bibliometric analysis places these case studies into the broader historical and topical context of the peer-reviewed ocean noise literature as a whole. The case studies highlighted emerging knowledge of impacts, including the ways that non-injurious effects can still accumulate at the population level, and detailed approaches to guide ocean noise management. They build a compelling case that a number of anthropogenic noise types can affect a variety of marine taxa. Meanwhile, the bibliometric analyses revealed an increasing diversity of ocean noise topics covered and journal outlets since the 1940s. This could be seen in terms of both the expansion of the literature from more physical interests to ecological impacts of noise, management and policy, and consideration of a widening range of taxa. However, if our scientific knowledge base is ever to get ahead of the curve of rapid industrialization of the ocean, we are going to have to identify naïve populations and relatively pristine seas, and construct mechanistic models, so that we can predict impacts before they occur, and guide effective mitigation for the most vulnerable populations. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Blight L.K.,University of British Columbia | Blight L.K.,Procellaria Research and Consulting | Hobson K.A.,Environment Canada | Kyser T.K.,Queens University | Arcese P.,University of British Columbia
Global Change Biology | Year: 2015

The world's oceans have undergone significant ecological changes following European colonial expansion and associated industrialization. Seabirds are useful indicators of marine food web structure and can be used to track multidecadal environmental change, potentially reflecting long-term human impacts. We used stable isotope (δ13C, δ15N) analysis of feathers from glaucous-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens) in a heavily disturbed region of the northeast Pacific to ask whether diets of this generalist forager changed in response to shifts in food availability over 150 years, and whether any detected change might explain long-term trends in gull abundance. Sampled feathers came from birds collected between 1860 and 2009 at nesting colonies in the Salish Sea, a transboundary marine system adjacent to Washington, USA and British Columbia, Canada. To determine whether temporal trends in stable isotope ratios might simply reflect changes to baseline environmental values, we also analysed muscle tissue from forage fishes collected in the same region over a multidecadal timeframe. Values of δ13C and δ15N declined since 1860 in both subadult and adult gulls (δ13C, ~ 2-6‰δ15N, ~4-5‰), indicating that their diet has become less marine over time, and that birds now feed at a lower trophic level than previously. Conversely, forage fish δ13C and δ15N values showed no trends, supporting our conclusion that gull feather values were indicative of declines in marine food availability rather than of baseline environmental change. Gradual declines in feather isotope values are consistent with trends predicted had gulls consumed less fish over time, but were equivocal with respect to whether gulls had switched to a more garbage-based diet, or one comprising marine invertebrates. Nevertheless, our results suggest a long-term decrease in diet quality linked to declining fish abundance or other anthropogenic influences, and may help to explain regional population declines in this species and other piscivores. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Williams R.,University of St. Andrews | Ashe E.,University of St. Andrews | Blight L.,WWF Canada | Blight L.,Procellaria Research and Consulting | And 2 more authors.
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2014

Marine mammals are ecologically and culturally important species, and various countries have specific legislation to protect the welfare of individual marine mammals and the conservation of their populations. Anthropogenic noise represents a particular challenge for conservation and management. There is a large and growing body of research to support the conclusion that anthropogenic noise can affect marine mammal behavior, energetics, and physiology. The legal, policy, and management issues surrounding marine mammals and noise are similarly complex. Our objective is twofold. First, we discuss how policy and legal frameworks in Canada have some important differences from other jurisdictions covered in previous reviews, and provide a useful general case study. Secondly, we highlight some priority research areas that will improve marine mammal conservation and management. Our examples focus on the research needed to meet stated conservation objectives for marine mammal species in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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