Variation in population synchrony in a multi-species seabird community: response to changes in predator abundance

Robertson, G. S., Bolton, M., Morrison, P. and Monaghan, P. (2015) Variation in population synchrony in a multi-species seabird community: response to changes in predator abundance. PLoS ONE, 10(6), e0131543. (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131543) (PMID:26115174) (PMCID:PMC4482655)

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Ecologically similar sympatric species, subject to typical environmental conditions, may be expected to exhibit synchronous temporal fluctuations in demographic parameters, while populations of dissimilar species might be expected to show less synchrony. Previous studies have tested for synchrony in different populations of single species, and those including data from more than one species have compared fluctuations in only one demographic parameter. We tested for synchrony in inter-annual changes in breeding population abundance and productivity among four tern species on Coquet Island, northeast England. We also examined how manipulation of one independent environmental variable (predator abundance) influenced temporal changes in ecologically similar and dissimilar tern species. Changes in breeding abundance and productivity of ecologically similar species (Arctic Sterna paradisaea, Common S. hirundo and Roseate Terns S. dougallii) were synchronous with one another over time, but not with a species with different foraging and breeding behaviour (Sandwich Terns Thalasseus sandvicensis). With respect to changes in predator abundance, there was no clear pattern. Roseate Tern abundance was negatively correlated with that of large gulls breeding on the island from 1975 to 2013, while Common Tern abundance was positively correlated with number of large gulls, and no significant correlations were found between large gull and Arctic and Sandwich Tern populations. Large gull abundance was negatively correlated with productivity of Arctic and Common Terns two years later, possibly due to predation risk after fledging, while no correlation with Roseate Tern productivity was found. The varying effect of predator abundance is most likely due to specific differences in the behaviour and ecology of even these closely-related species. Examining synchrony in multi-species assemblages improves our understanding of how whole communities react to long-term changes in the environment and suggests that changes in predator abundance may differentially affect populations of sympatric seabird species.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bolton, Dr Mark and Monaghan, Professor Pat and Robertson, Miss Gail
Authors: Robertson, G. S., Bolton, M., Morrison, P., and Monaghan, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN (Online):1932-6203
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Authors
First Published:First published in PLoS ONE 10(6):e0131543
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
552641NERC DTG 2010 - 2014: FBLSMarjorie BilsboroughNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/I528369/1MVLS FINANCE