Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 113, Issue 1–3, pp 31–48 | Cite as

Marine Birds as Indicators of Arctic Marine Ecosystem Health: Linking the Northern Ecosystem Initiative to Long-Term Studies

  • Mark L. Mallory
  • H. Grant Gilchrist
  • Birgit M. Braune
  • Anthony J. Gaston


Marine birds are sensitive indicators of the condition of marine ecosystems in the Arctic, partly because they feed at the top of the arctic food chain. The Northern Ecosystem Initiative (NEI) recently supported four separate studies that investigated aspects of Arctic marine bird science which simultaneously addressed goals of the NEI to better understand northern ecosystems and their response to environmental stressors. The projects used both scientific and traditional knowledge to examine the relationship between sea-ice, contaminants, and the ecology of marine birds, and to transfer environmental knowledge to students. Results from these investigations confirm that changes are occurring in Arctic environments, and that these are captured through marine bird research. Collectively these studies provided new data that supported NEI objectives of monitoring the health of the Arctic ecosystem, and contributed to Canada's international obligations for Arctic science.


Arctic marine birds contaminants sea-ice climate change inuit polynya nunavut 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. AMAP: 1998, AMAP Assessment Report: Arctic Pollution Issues, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, Oslo, Norway, Xii, +859 pp.Google Scholar
  2. AMAP: 2004, AMAP Assessment 2002: Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Arctic, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), Oslo, Norway, xvi +310 pp.Google Scholar
  3. Barbraud, C. and Weimerskirch, H.: 2001, ‘Emperor Penguins and climate change’, Nature 411, 183–186.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Birkhead, T. R. and Nettleship, D. N.: 1980, Census methods for murres Uria spp.: A Unified Approach, Canadian Wildlife ServiceOccasional Paper Number 43, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  5. Braune, B. M. and Simon, M.: 2003, ‘Dioxins, furans, and non-ortho PCBs in Canadian Arctic seabirds’, Environ. Sci. Technol. 37, 3071–3077.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Braune, B. M. and Simon, M.: 2004, ‘Trace elements and halogenated organic compounds in Canadian Arctic seabirds’, Mar. Pollut. Bull. 48, 986–992.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Braune, B. M., Donaldson, G. M. and Hobson, K. A.: 2001, ‘Contaminant residues in seabird eggs from the Canadian Arctic. I. Temporal trends 1975–1998’, Environ. Pollut. 114, 39–54.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Braune, B. M., Donaldson, G. M. and Hobson, K. A.: 2002, ‘Contaminant residues in seabird eggs from the Canadian Arctic. II. Spatial trends and evidence from stable isotopes for intercolony differences’, Environ. Pollut. 117, 133–145.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, R. G. B.: 1991, ‘Marine Birds and Climatic Warming in the Northwest Atlantic’, in: W. A. Montevecchi and A. J. Gaston (eds.), Studies of High Latitude Seabirds. 1. Behavioural, Energetic and Oceanographic Aspects of Seabird Feeding Ecology, Canadian Wildlife Service Occasional Paper 68, Ottawa, Canada, pp. 49–54.Google Scholar
  10. Brown, R. G. B., Nettleship, D. N., Germain, P., Tull, C. E. and Davis, T.: 1975, Atlas of Eastern Canadian Seabirds, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Canada, 219 pp.Google Scholar
  11. CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna): 2001, Arctic Flora and Fauna: Status and Conservation, Edita, Helsinki, Finland, 272 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Chardine, J. W., Fontaine, A. J., Blokpoel, H., Mallory, M. L. and Hoffman, T.: 2004, ‘At-sea observations of ivory gulls (Pagophila eburnea) in the eastern Canadian High Arctic in 1993 and 2002 indicate a population decline’, Polar Record 40, 355–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Falardeau, G., Rail, J.-F., Gilliland, S. and Savard, J.-P. L.: 2003, ‘Breeding Survey of Common Eiders Along the West Coast of Ungava Bay, in Summer 2000, and a Supplement on Other Nesting Aquatic Birds’, Canadian Wildlife Service Technical Report 405, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  14. Fisk, A. T., Hobbs, K. and Muir, D. C. G. (eds.): 2003, Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report II: Contaminant Levels, Trends and Effects in the Biological Environment, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Canada, 175 pp.Google Scholar
  15. Furgal, C., Kalhok, S., Loring, E. and Smith, S. (eds.): 2003, Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report II: Knowledge in Action, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Canada, 90 pp.Google Scholar
  16. Ganter, B. and Boyd, H.: 2000, ‘A tropical volcano, high predation pressure and the breeding biology of arctic waterbirds: A circumpolar review of breeding failure in the summer of 1992’, Arctic 53, 289–305.Google Scholar
  17. Gaston, A. J. and Hipfner, J. M.: 1998, ‘The effect of ice conditions in northern Hudson Bay on breeding by Thick-billed Murres (Uria lomvia)’, Can. J. Zool. 76, 480–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gaston, A. J. and Hipfner, J. M.: 2000, ‘Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia’, in: A. Poole and F. Gill (eds.), The Birds of North America, The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, USA No. 497.Google Scholar
  19. Gaston, A. J. and Nettleship, D. N.: 1981, The Thick-billed Murres of Prince Leopold Island, Canadian Wildlife Service Monograph Number 6, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  20. Gaston, A. J., Gilchrist, H. G. and Mallory, M. L.: 2005, ‘Variation in ice conditions has strong effects on the breeding of marine birds at Prince Leopold Island, Nunavut’, Ecography 28, 331–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gilchrist, H. G. and Mallory, M. L.: 2005, ‘Declines in abundance and distribution of the Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea) in Arctic Canada’, Biol. Conserv. 121, 303–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gilchrist, H. G. and Robertson, G. J.: 2000, ‘Observations of marine birds and mammals wintering at polynyas and ice edges in the Belcher Islands, Nunavut, Canada’, Arctic 53, 61–68.Google Scholar
  23. Government of Canada: 1997, Canada Wildlife Act, 1994, Supply and Services Canada, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  24. Government of Canada: 2001, Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, Supply and Services Canada, Ottawa, Canada. Government of Canada.: 2002, Bill C-5. An Act Respecting the Protection of Wildlife Species at Risk in Canada, Supply and Services Canada, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  25. Grumet, N. S., Wake, C. P., Mayewski, P. A., Zielinski, G. A., Whitlow, S. I., Koerner, R. M., Fisher, D. A. and Woollett, J. M.: 2001, ‘Variability of sea-ice extent in Baffin Bay over the last millennium’, Climate Change 49, 129–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hall, C. M. and Johnston, M. E.: 1995, Polar Tourism, Wiley & Sons, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  27. Hipfner, J. M. and Gaston, A. J.: 1999, ‘The relationship between eggsize and posthatching development in the Thick-billed Murre’, Ecology 80, 1289–1297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hobson, K. A.: 1993, ‘Trophic relationships among high arctic seabirds: Insights from tissue-dependent stable-isotope models’, Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 95, 7–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. INAC: 1993, Agreement Between the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement Areaand Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  30. Jenouvrier, S., Barbraud, C. and Weimerskirch, H.: 2003, ‘Effects of climate variability on the temporal population dynamics of southern fulmars’, J. Animal Ecol. 72, 576–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kinloch, D., Kuhnlein, H. and Muir, D.: 1992, ‘Inuit foods and diet: A preliminary assessment of benefits and risks’, Sci. Total Environ. 122, 247–278.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Krupnik, I. and Jolly, D.: 2002, The Earth is Faster Now: Indigenous Observations of Arctic Environmental Change, Arctic Research Consortium of the United States Fairbanks, Alaska, USA.Google Scholar
  33. Laxon, S., Peacock, N. and Smith, D.: 2003, ‘High interannual variability of sea ice thickness in the Arctic region’, Nature 425, 947–950.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Mallory, M. L. and Fontaine, A. J.: 2004, ‘Key marine habitat sites for migratory birds in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories’, Canadian Wildlife Service Occasional Paper Number 109, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  35. Mallory, M. L., Gilchrist, H. G. Fontaine, A. J. and Akearok, J. A.: 2003, ‘Local ecological knowledge of ivory gull declines in Arctic Canada’, Arctic 56, 293–298.Google Scholar
  36. Mallory, M. L., Wayland, M., Braune, B. M. and Drouillard, K. G.: 2004, ‘Trace elements in marine birds, arctic hare and ringed seals breeding near Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, Canada’, Mar. Pollut. Bull. 49, 136–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mallory, M. L., Ogilvie, C. and Gilchrist, H. G.: 2006, ‘A review of the Northern Ecosystem Initiative in Arctic Canada: Facilitating Arctic ecosystem research through traditional and novel approaches’, Environ. Monit. Assess. 113(1–3), 21–32 (this issue).Google Scholar
  38. McDonald, M., Arragutainaq, L. and Novalinga, Z.: 1997, Voices from the Bay: Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Lnuit and Cree in the Hudson Bay Bioregion, Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  39. Muir, D., Braune, B., DeMarch, B., Norstrom, R., Wagemann, R., Lockhart, L., Hargrave, B., Bright, D., Addison, R., Payne, J. and Reimer, K.: 1999, ‘Spatial and temporal trends and effects of contaminants in the Canadian Arctic marine ecosystem: A review’, Sci. Total Environ. 230, 83–144.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Nakashima, D. J. and Murray, D. J.: 1988, The Common Eider of Eastern Hudson Bay: A Survey of Nest Colonies and Lnuit Ecological Knowledge, Environmental Studies Revolving Funds Report 102, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa.Google Scholar
  41. NAWCP: 2002, North American Waterbird Conservation Plan, Waterbird Conservation for the Americas, Washington, USA.Google Scholar
  42. Nettleship, D. N. and Duffy, D. C.: 1993, Seabird Populations, Elsevier Applied Science, London, UK.Google Scholar
  43. Parkinson, C. L., Cavalieri, D. J. Gloersen, P. Zwally, H. J. and Comiso, J. C.: 1999, ‘Arctic sea ice extents, areas and trends, 1978–1996’, J. Geophys. Res. 104, 20837–20856.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Robertson, G. J. and Gilchrist, H. G.: 1998, ‘Evidence for population declines among common eiders breeding in the Belcher islands, Northwest Territories’, Arctic 51, 378–385.Google Scholar
  45. Robertson, G. J., Elliot, R. D. and Chaulk, K. G.: 2002, ‘Breeding Seabird Populations in Groswater Bay, Labrador, 1978 and 2002’, Canadian Wildlife Service Technical Report 394, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  46. Roots, E. F.: 1989, ‘Climate change: High latitude regions’, Climatic Change 15, 223–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smith, M. and Rigby, B.: 1981, ‘Distribution of Polynyas in the Canadian Arctic’, in: I. Stirling and H. Cleator (eds.), Polynyas in the Canadian Arctic, Canadian Wildlife Service Occasional Paper No. 45, Ottawa, Canada, pp. 7–28.Google Scholar
  48. Stirling, I.: 1997, ‘The importance of polynyas, ice edges and leads to marine mammals and birds’, J. Marine Sys. 10, 9–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tasker, M.L., Hope-Jones, P., Dixon, T. and Blake, B. F.: 1984, ‘Counting seabirds at sea from ships: a review of methods employed and a suggestion for a standardized approach’, Auk 101, 567–577.Google Scholar
  50. Van Oostdam, J., Donaldson, S, Feeley, M. and Tremblay, N. (eds): 2003, Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report II: Toxic Substances in the Arctic and Associated Effects – Human Health, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Canada, 127 pp.Google Scholar
  51. Vinnikov, K. Y., Robock, A., Stouffer, R. J., Walsh, J. E., Parkinson, C. L., Cavalieri, D. J., Mitchell, J. F. B., Garrett, D. and Zakharov, V. F.: 1999, ‘Global warming and northern hemisphere sea ice extent’, Science 286, 1934–1937.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Wayland, M., Gilchrist, H. G., Dickson, D. L., Bollinger, T., James, C., Carreno, R. A. and Keating, J.: 2001, ‘Trace elements in king eiders and common eiders in the Canadian Arctic’, Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 41, 491–500.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Wayland, M., Gilchrist, H. G., Marchant, T., Keating, J. and Smits, J. E.: 2002, ‘Immune function, stress response and body condition in arctic–breeding common eiders in relation to cadmium, mercury and selenium concentrations’, Environ. Res. 90, 47–60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Welch, H. E., Bergmann, M. A., Siferd, T. D., Martin, K. A., Curtis, M. F., Crawford, R. E., Conover, R. J. and Hop, H.: 1992, ‘Energy flow through the marine ecosystem of the Lancaster Sound region, Arctic Canada’, Arctic 45, 343–357.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark L. Mallory
    • 1
  • H. Grant Gilchrist
    • 2
  • Birgit M. Braune
    • 2
  • Anthony J. Gaston
    • 2
  1. 1.Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife ServiceIqaluitCanada
  2. 2.Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research CentreCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations