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Within and between species competition in a seabird community: statistical exploration and modeling of time-series data


In a changing environment, the maintenance of communities is subject to many constraints (phenology, resources, climate, etc.). One such constraint is the relationship between conspecifics and competitors. In mixed colonies, seabirds may have to cope with interspecific and intraspecific competition for both space and food resources. We applied competitive interaction models to data on three seabird breeding populations: black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), common guillemot (Uria aalge) and Brünnich’s guillemot (Uria lomvia) collected over 27-years at Kharlov Island in the Barents Sea. We found a competitive effect only for the kittiwake breeding population size on the common guillemot breeding population size when kittiwakes were abundant. The timing of kittiwake breeding negatively affected the number of breeding Brünnich’s guillemots. The timing of breeding was negatively correlated to biomass of the main pelagic fish in the Barents Sea, the capelin (Mallotus villosus), which suggests an indirect action. The community matrix shows that the community was not stable. The kittiwake population did not decrease as seen in north Norwegian populations. Likewise, the common guillemot population, after a crash in 1985, was recovering at Kharlov while Norwegian populations were decreasing. Only the Brünnich’s guillemot showed a decrease at Kharlov until 1999. We suggest that the stability of the kittiwake and common guillemot populations at Kharlov is due to better feeding conditions than in colonies of the Norwegian coast, linked to a possible eastward shift of the capelin population with the temperature increase of the Barents Sea.

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Funding was provided by the Norwegian Research Council (‘Fribio’ programme for supporting the “Mico” project). We are grateful to D.Ø. Hjermann for his help in the analysis and his advises. We thank C. Le Bohec, J.D. Whittington for their helpful comments, and F.N. Shklyarevich for help in collection of field materials. We also thank Knipovich Polar Institute of Marine Fishery and Oceanography (PINRO, Murmansk) for kindly letting us use the temperature data from the Kola transect. We are grateful to two anonymous referees for providing valuable comments to an earlier version of this paper.

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Correspondence to J. M. Durant.

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Communicated by Ola Olsson.

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Durant, J.M., Krasnov, Y.V., Nikolaeva, N.G. et al. Within and between species competition in a seabird community: statistical exploration and modeling of time-series data. Oecologia 169, 685–694 (2012).

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  • Black-legged kittiwake
  • Breeding phenology
  • Colonial seabirds
  • Guillemots
  • Competition