Sources of Breeding Season Mortality in Canadian Arctic Seabirds

Mark L. Mallory, Anthony J. Gaston, H. Grant Gilchrist

Abstract


In more than 30 years of studies on marine birds in Arctic Canada, we have observed numerous instances of mortality of adults, eggs, and chicks that seem unusual when compared to known sources of mortality for seabirds breeding in temperate or tropical regions. The extreme cold weather and ice conditions of the Arctic might intuitively be expected to be a significant factor in mortality for these Arctic birds. While weather conditions led directly to seabird mortality, other factors, perhaps facilitated by typical Arctic climate features, caused more deaths. In this paper, we summarize mortality incidents that we have witnessed for nine species of Arctic marine birds, as a baseline against which future observations can be made. We also speculate on mechanisms by which climate change could increase mortality of breeding Arctic seabirds in the future.

Key words: Arctic, marine bird, mortality, predation, weather

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14430/arctic154