Trophic interactions under climate fluctuations: the Atlantic puffin as an example

Joë M. Durant, Tycho Anker-Nilssen, Nils Chr. Stenseth

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Abstract

Co–occurrence in food requirements of offspring and food availability is a key factor determining breeding success. Prey availability is typically dependent on environmental conditions that are different from those influencing the predator's decision regarding whether or not to initiate breeding, and is not always optimal at the peak of reproduction requirements. We investigated this relationship to understand better what determines the fledging success of the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica). Colony data from Røst (northern Norway) covering a period of 27 years were analysed with parallel data on sea temperature and the size and abundance of the puffins' main prey (the Norwegian spring–spawning herring, Clupea harengus). By fitting statistical models to the fledging success, we found that one effect of climate on this population of Atlantic puffins is indirect and mediated by sea temperature affecting the availability of first–year herring. The best model also demonstrates that the breeding success of the Røst puffins may be quantitatively predicted from the size of first–year herring and sea temperature.