Central Pacific Seabirds and the El Niño Southern Oscillation: 1982 to 1983 Perspectives

Science  17 Aug 1984:
Vol. 225, Issue 4663, pp. 713-716
DOI: 10.1126/science.225.4663.713


The breeding chronology and reproductive attempts of the seabird community on Christmas Island in the central Pacific Ocean (2°N, 157°W) were interrupted by the 1982-1983 El Niño Southern Oscillation. The resultant reproductive failure and disappearance of the entire seabird community of this equatorial atoll represents the most dramatic interruption on record of a seabird community located distant from coastal upwelling. Our data indicate the effect that the abiotic and biotic aspects of a global atmospheric-oceanic anomaly have on marine birds. The 1982-1983 El Niño Southern Oscillation provides an example of selective pressures and a natural experiment in the study of vertebrate population dynamics.