Thick-billed murre colony size in relation to spring sea ice conditions, West Greenland

LifeLinkedtoIce Thick billed murre colony size


Box 8. Sea ice conditions, primary production, and colony size of Greenland seabirds
A study of thick-billed murre nesting colonies along a 1,700 kilometer north-to-south gradient on the west coast of Greenland [242] illustrates how important the receding spring ice edge is for seabirds. Northern nesting locations, with higher sea ice concentrations during the breeding season, faster rates of ice melt, and greater predictability of ice conditions, supported the largest colonies (Figure 28). At more southerly locations, with less ice and more erratic melt patterns, the more diffuse primary production supported smaller numbers of birds.
With the current and predicted trends towards earlier break-up and reduction of sea ice cover, the food availability at these northern murre colonies will likely decline, as may the number of birds that each colony can support.



Figure 28. Thick-billed murre colony size in relation to spring sea ice conditions, West Greenland


Based on analyses of data from areas around 46 murre colonies, grouped into regions. Colony sizes are historical maximum estimates of numbers of birds (representing carrying capacity) rather than current population sizes.  This approach avoids the confounding factor of overharvest in some areas in recent decades. Sea ice conditions are based on satellite measurements, 1979 to 2004.


1Rate of change of fraction of open water, units X 10-3
2Statistical measure of variability of the rate of change: residual from mean, units X 10-2
Source: Laidre et al. 2008 [242] 


Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) 

The data can be downloaded freely. Users are requested to reference the source.

Eamer, J., Donaldson, G.M., Gaston, A.J., Kosobokova, K.N., Lárusson, K.F., Melnikov, I.A., Reist, J.D., Richardson, E., Staples, L., von Quillfeldt, C.H. 2013. Life Linked to Ice: A guide to sea-ice-associated biodiversity in this time of rapid change. CAFF Assessment Series No. 10. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, Iceland. ISBN: 978-9935-431-25-7.



242. Laidre, K.L., Heide-Jorgensen, M.P., Nyeland, J., Mosbech, A., and Boertmann, D. 2008. Latitudinal gradients in sea ice and primary production determine Arctic seabird colony size in Greenland. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 275(1652): 2695-2702. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.0874.


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