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Nature. 2001 Sep 27;413(6854):417-20.

Lagged effects of ocean climate change on fulmar population dynamics.

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University of Aberdeen, Department of Zoology, Lighthouse Field Station, Cromarty, Ross-shire IV11 8YJ, UK.


Environmental variation reflected by the North Atlantic Oscillation affects breeding and survival in terrestrial vertebrates, and climate change is predicted to have an impact on population dynamics by influencing food quality or availability. The North Atlantic Oscillation also affects the abundance of marine fish and zooplankton, but it is unclear whether this filters up trophic levels to long-lived marine top predators. Here we show by analysis of data from a 50-year study of the fulmar that two different indices of ocean climate variation may have lagged effects on population dynamics in this procellariiform seabird. Annual variability in breeding performance is influenced by the North Atlantic Oscillation, whereas cohort differences in recruitment are related to temperature changes in the summer growing season in the year of birth. Because fulmars exhibit delayed reproduction, there is a 5-year lag in the population's response to these effects of environmental change. These data show how interactions between different climatic factors result in complex dynamics, and that the effects of climate change may take many years to become apparent in long-lived marine top predators.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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