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Global Seabird Response to Forage Fish Depletion—One-Third for the Birds

Science  23 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6063, pp. 1703-1706
DOI: 10.1126/science.1212928

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Abstract

Determining the form of key predator-prey relationships is critical for understanding marine ecosystem dynamics. Using a comprehensive global database, we quantified the effect of fluctuations in food abundance on seabird breeding success. We identified a threshold in prey (fish and krill, termed “forage fish”) abundance below which seabirds experience consistently reduced and more variable productivity. This response was common to all seven ecosystems and 14 bird species examined within the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans. The threshold approximated one-third of the maximum prey biomass observed in long-term studies. This provides an indicator of the minimal forage fish biomass needed to sustain seabird productivity over the long term.

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