Offshore wind energy development on the US Atlantic Continental Shelf has brought attention to the need for marine spatial planning efforts to reduce potential conflict between wind turbines and marine animals, including seabirds. We evaluated the effects of marine mammals, fishes, and habitat characteristics on the distribution and relative abundance of marine birds off the coast of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. From May 2012 to 2014, we collected line transect data from 14 shipboard surveys, and novel high-resolution digital videography data from 14 aerial surveys. We compiled five habitat covariates: three static (distance to shore, sea floor slope, and sediment grain size), and two dynamic (sea surface temperature, salinity). We additionally analysed two seabird community covariates: the density of observed marine mammals and detected fish. Using zero-altered models, we tested our hypothesis that plunge-diving seabird species would show positive associations with marine mammals. Our results provide statistical evidence that, alongside competition, facilitative interactions occur among pelagic communities, where subsurface predators improve the detectability and accessibility of prey to surface-feeding seabirds. This study highlights the importance of quantifying community and ecological influences on avian abundance, particularly in predicting the potential exposure of marine birds and mammals to offshore development.
Evaluating habitat, prey, and mesopredator associations in a community of marine birds
Title: Evaluating habitat, prey, and mesopredator associations in a community of marine birds
September 01, 2018
Journal: ICES Journal of Marine Science
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Goyert, H.; Gardner, B.; Veit, R.; Gilbert, A.; Connelly, E.; Duron, M.; Johnson, S.; Williams, K. (2018). Evaluating habitat, prey, and mesopredator associations in a community of marine birds. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 75(5), 1602-1612.