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Title: The breeding season distribution, foraging trip characteristics and habitat preference of northern fulmars, Fulmaris glacialis
Author: Edwards, Ewan William James
ISNI:       0000 0004 5914 5757
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2015
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The role of seabirds as indicators of marine conditions is widely acknowledged. As top predators they are vulnerable to environmental change. The study of spatial ecology has been identified as critical to the conservation of seabirds. The studies described within this thesis have for the first time explored in detail the spatial distribution of breeding fulmars. A combination of geolocation (GLS) and GPS tracking during incubation and chick rearing found that fulmars ranged further and for longer during incubation, with little difference between the sexes (Chapter 2). GLS tracking data from this period suggested that some birds were foraging at the Mid Atlantic Ridge, far surpassing the assumed maximum foraging range of this species whilst breeding. This was confirmed from the GPS track of one bird. Search behavior during the trip suggests that this bird exploited prey resources associated with fronts at the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone (Chapter 4). Whilst foraging far from the breeding site may allow birds to avoid competition and exploit predictable prey patches, this wide ranging behaviour may expose birds to threats such as fisheries bycatch. The majority of female fulmars tracked during the pre laying exodus foraged within the Norwegian Sea (Chapter 3), where it is estimated that 20,000 fulmars die annually on longlines. A double-tagging study, the first in the North Atlantic region and the first on a petrel species, used a state-space model to estimate the error in GLS data from fulmars and reconstructed the most probably route travelled. These data indicate that during this early period of the breeding season when distribution was virtually unknown, fulmars from a Scottish colony were foraging widely within three broad biogeographical regions. Meanwhile, fine-scale GPS tracking data was collected at three colonies during the chick rearing period. When combined with environmental and fisheries data within a model this facilitated investigation into the habitat preference of fulmars, finding associations between fulmar presence and fisheries activity, as well as oceanography (Chapter 5). This thesis describes how the use of telemetry has for the first time linked breeding season foraging characteristics with spatial distribution and habitat. Tracking has revolutionized our knowledge of fulmar distribution, behavior and habitat preference during the breeding season.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Fulmarus glacialis