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Ecology. 2008 Jan;89(1):77-85.

Living close, doing differently: small-scale asynchrony in demography of two species of seabirds.

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  • 1Institut Mediterrani d'Estudis Avançats (IMEDEA), CSIC-UIB, Miquel Marques 21, Esporles, Mallorca 07190, Spain.


Studies on spatiotemporal pattern of population abundance predict that close populations should exhibit a high level of synchrony, reflected in a parallel time variation of at least one demographic parameter. We tested this prediction for two threatened species of Procellariiformes sharing similar life history traits: the European Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) and the Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus). Within each species, we compared adult survival, proportion of transients (breeders that do not settle), and average productivity at two neighboring colonies. Physical and environmental features (e.g., food availability) of the breeding sites were similar. However, while Balearic Shearwater colonies were free of predators, aerial predators occurred especially in one colony of the European Storm Petrel. Despite this difference, we found similar results for the two species. A high proportion of transient birds was detected in only one colony of each species, ranging between 0.00-0.38 and 0.10-0.63 for the petrels and shearwaters, respectively. This seems to be an emergent feature of spatially structured populations of seabirds, unrelated to colony size or predator pressure, that can have important demographic consequences for local population dynamics and their synchrony. Local survival of resident birds was different at each colony, an unexpected result, especially for predator-free colonies of Balearic Shearwater. Productivity varied between the two colonies of European Storm Petrels, but not between the two colonies of Balearic Shearwaters. We demonstrated that within each species, several demographic parameters were colony specific and sufficiently different to generate short-term asynchronous dynamics. Our findings suggest that, in spatially structured populations, local factors, such as predation or small-scale habitat features, or population factors, such as individual quality or age structure, can generate unexpected asynchrony between neighboring populations.

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