PerspectiveMarine Ecology

Seabird clues to ecosystem health

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Science  12 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6449, pp. 116-117
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw9999

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Summary

For millennia, humans have used seabird sightings and behavior as indicators of conditions of the marine environment. Seabirds are highly visible and nest in large colonies in normally constant locations, allowing efficient data gathering. Different species can provide information on different parts of the food chain. Individuals are often easier to observe and capture than other marine organisms, allowing behavioral, anatomical, physiological, demographic, and genetic information to be gathered (1). In recent decades, seabird breeding and feeding observations have revealed the connection between sea surface temperatures in upwelling regions and seabird reproductive success, as well as the frequency with which warm oceanographic anomalies occur and the evolution of seabird life history strategies (2, 3). These insights provide valuable information for sustainable ecosystem management. Coordinated efforts to gather standardized seabird data will be essential for monitoring the health of the global ocean.

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