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The Journal of Experimental Biology 212, Pt 15 (2009) 2483-2490
Thermodynamic modelling predicts energetic bottleneck for seabirds wintering in the northwest Atlantic.
Jérôme Fort1, 2, Warren P Porter3, David Grémillet1
(08/2009)

Studying the energetics of marine top predators such as seabirds is essential to understand processes underlying adult winter survival and its impact on population dynamics. Winter survival is believed to be the single most important life-history trait in long-lived species but its determinants are largely unknown. Seabirds are inaccessible during this season, so conventional metabolic studies are extremely challenging and new approaches are needed. This paper describes and uses a state-of-the-art mechanistic model, Niche Mapper, to predict energy expenditure and food requirements of the two main seabird species wintering in the northwest Atlantic. We found that energy demand increased throughout the winter phase in both species. Across this period, mean estimated daily energy requirements were 1306 kJ day(-1) for Brünnich's guillemots (Uria lomvia) and 430 kJ day(-1) for little auks (Alle alle) wintering off Greenland and Newfoundland. Mean estimated daily food requirements were 547 g wet food day(-1) for Brünnich's guillemots, and 289 g wet food day(-1) for little auks. For both species and both wintering sites, our model predicts a sharp increase in energy expenditure between November and December, primarily driven by climatic factors such as air temperature and wind speed. These findings strongly suggest the existence of an energetic bottleneck for North Atlantic seabirds towards the end of the year, a challenging energetic phase which might explain recurrent events of winter mass-mortality, so called ;seabird winter wrecks'. Our study therefore emphasizes the relevance of thermodynamics/biophysical modelling for investigating the energy balance of wintering marine top predators and its interplay with survival and population dynamics in the context of global change.
1 :  CEFE - Centre d'écologie fonctionnelle et évolutive
2 :  DEPE-IPHC - Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie
3 :  Department of Zoology
Sciences du Vivant/Biodiversité/Evolution

Sciences de l'environnement/Biodiversité et Ecologie
alcids – bioenergetics – daiy energy requirement – Niche Mapper TM – winter wrecks