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Seabird population ecology
Isle of May Long-Term Study
From the start in 1973, the Long-Term Study on the Isle of May (IMLOTS) has grown so that today it is the most data-rich and complex study of its type in Europe. IMLOTS forms part of CEH’s network of long-term monitoring sites for detecting effects of environmental change, particularly climate change. The study is partly funded by the UK’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) as part of the Seabird Monitoring Programme.
Why do we monitor seabirds?
There are at least two good reasons why we monitor seabirds:
For their own sake. The UK holds internationally important breeding populations of many species of seabirds, and therefore has an obligation to keep an eye on their well-being. Analysis of data from the Isle of May confirmed that numbers of black-legged kittiwakes have declined by more than half since 1990 and linked this decline to ongoing climate change. (Click here to read more.)
To accomplish this, we monitor many aspects of the biology of five species of seabirds breeding on the Isle of May: European shag, black-legged kittiwake, common guillemot, razorbill and Atlantic puffin. We use colour ringing to follow individuals and study their behaviour in detail. This means that for some individuals we know a lot about their entire life history – for an example of this, see the story of Yellow NP.
Repeated observations of colour-ringed individuals allow us to estimate the probability that a bird survives from year to year – the main factor affecting population growth in these long-lived birds. We also follow breeding success, measured as the average number of chicks fledged per breeding pair. Breeding success is more likely to respond to year-to-year changes in food supply. In combination, the monitoring of annual survival and breeding success allows us to understand the reasons why populations go up or down.
To understand year-to-year variation in more detail, we also monitor the food that seabirds bring to their chicks. Variation in the importance or size of different fish species, or age classes of the same species, can have important repercussions for the birds and tell us a lot about conditions in the sea.
Breeding season summaries
Every year, we produce a summary of the breeding season for the JNCC:
We also regularly analyse our long-term data and report the results in scientific journals.
Burthe, S.; Daunt, F., et al. (2012). Phenological trends and trophic mismatch across multiple levels of a North Sea pelagic food web. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 454: 119-133
Frederiksen, M., Moe, B., et al. (2012). Multicolony tracking reveals the winter distribution of a pelagic seabird on an ocean basin scale. Diversity and Distributions 18 (6): 530-542.
Reed, T. E., Daunt, F., et al. (2012). Impacts of Parasites in Early Life: Contrasting Effects on Juvenile Growth for Different Family Members PLOS One 7 (2).
Riddick, S. N., Dragosits, U., et al. (2012). The global distribution of ammonia emissions from seabird colonies. Atmospheric Environment 55: 319-327.
Vallarino, A., Evans, N., et al. (2012). Egg components vary independently of each other in the facultative siblicidal Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. Journal of Ornithology 153 (2): 513-523.
Barlow, E. J., Daunt, F., et al. (2011). Weak large-scale population genetic structure in a philopatric seabird, the European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis. Ibis 153 (4): 768-778.
Bogdanova, M. I., Daunt, F., et al. (2011). Seasonal interactions in the black-legged kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla: links between breeding performance and winter distribution. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 278 (1717): 2412-2418.
Lahoz-Monfort, J. J., Morgan, B.J.T., et al. (2011). A capture-recapture model for exploring multi-species synchrony in survival. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2 (1): 116-124.
Frederiksen, M., Elston, D.A., et al. (2011). Mechanisms of long-term decline in size of lesser sandeels in the North Sea explored using a growth and phenology model. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 432: 137-147.
Reynolds, T. J., Harris, M.P., et al. (2011). Among-colony synchrony in the survival of Common Guillemots Uria aalge reflects shared wintering areas. Ibis 153 (4): 818-831.
Ashbrook, K., Wanless, S., et al. (2010). Impacts of poor food availability on positive density dependence in a highly colonial seabird. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 277 (1692): 2355-2360.
Harris, M. P., Daunt, F., et al. (2010). Wintering areas of adult Atlantic puffins Fratercula arctica from a North Sea colony as revealed by geolocation technology. Marine Biology 157 (4): 827-836.
Owen, E., Daunt, F., et al. (2010). Sampling avian adipose tissue: assessing a nondestructive biopsy technique. Journal of Field Ornithology 81 (1): 92-98.
Thackeray, S. J., Sparks, T.H., et al. (2010). Trophic level asynchrony in rates of phenological change for marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. Global Change Biology 16 (12): 3304-3313.
Thaxter, C. B., Wanless, S., et al. (2010). Influence of wing loading on the trade-off between pursuit-diving and flight in common guillemots and razorbills Journal of Experimental Biology 213 (7): 1018-1025.
Wright, D. G., van der Wal, R., et al. (2010). The influence of seabird nutrient enrichment and grazing on the structure and function of island soil food webs. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 42 (4): 592-600.
Grosbois, V., Harris, M.P., et al. (2009). Modeling survival at multi-population scales using mark-recapture data. Ecology 90 (10): 2922-2932.
Reynolds, T. J., King, R., et al. (2009). Integrated Data Analysis in the Presence of Emigration and Mark Loss. Journal of Agricultural Biological and Environmental Statistics 14 (4): 411-431.
Thaxter, C. B., Daunt, F., et al. (2009). Sex-specific food provisioning in a monomorphic seabird, the common guillemot Uria aalge: nest defence, foraging efficiency or parental effort? Journal of Avian Biology 40 (1): 75-84.
Wanless, S., Frederiksen, M., et al. (2009). Long-term changes in breeding phenology at two seabird colonies in the western North Sea. Ibis 151 (2): 274-285.
Blackall, T. D., Wilson L. J., et al. (2008). Temporal variation in atmospheric ammonia concentrations above seabird colonies. Atmospheric Environment 42 (29): 6942-6950.