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Trophic versus geographic structure in stable isotope signatures of pelagic seabirds breeding in the northeast Atlantic

AuthorsRoscales, J. L.; Gómez-Díaz, Elena ; Neves, Verónica; González-Solís, Jacob
KeywordsFeeding ecology
Marine isoscapes
Migratory movements
Trophic niche
Issue Date2011
PublisherInter Research
CitationMarine Ecology Progress Series 434: 1-13 (2011)
AbstractFeeding ecology and geographic location are 2 major factors influencing animal stable isotope signatures, but their relative contributions are poorly understood, which limits the usefulness of stable isotope analysis in the study of animal ecology. To improve our knowledge of the main sources of isotopic variability at sea, we determined δ15N and δ13C signatures in the first primary feather of adult birds from 11 Procellariiform species (n = 609) across 16 northeast Atlantic localities, from Cape Verde (20°N) to Iceland (60°N). Post-breeding areas (where the studied feather is thought to be grown) were determined using light-level geolocation for 6 of the 11 species. Isotopic variability was geographically unstructured within the mid-northeast Atlantic (Macaronesian archipelagos), but trophically structured according to species and regardless of the breeding location, presumably as a result of trophic segregation among species. Indeed, the interspecific isotopic overlap resulting from combining δ15N and δ13C signatures of seabirds was low, which suggests that most species exploited exclusive trophic resources consistently across their geographic range. Species breeding in north temperate regions (Iceland, Scotland and Northern Ireland) showed enriched &#x3b415N compared to the same or similar species breeding in tropical and subtropical regions, suggesting some differences in baseline levels between these regions. The present study illustrates a noticeable trophic segregation of northeast Atlantic Procellariiformes. Our results show that the isotopic approach has limited applicability for the study of animal movements in the northeast Atlantic at a regional scale, but is potentially useful for the study of long-distance migrations between large marine systems.
Description13 páginas, 2 figuras, 4 tablas.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/meps09211
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