Title

Crevice-nesting auklets are early-successional species requiring disturbance to persist

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2017

Publication Title

Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research

Volume

49

Issue

4

First page number:

585

Last page number:

599

Abstract

Auklets (Aethia spp.) are small seabirds, endemic to the North Pacific Ocean, that nest in rock crevices on islands in Alaska and Russia. Nesting habitats for least (A. pusilla) and crested (A. cristatella) auklet colonies in the southern part of their range (Aleutian and Kuril Islands) are becoming overgrown by vegetation, which is fertilized by the auklets, making rock crevices unavailable for breeding. Colonization of newly created volcanic habitats suggests that auklets are habitat-limited in the southern range. The largest colonies there of least and crested auklets exist on lava slopes <100 years old. We propose that in the south, volcanic activity is required to maintain auklet populations. In contrast, colonies in the northern Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk show no indication of habitat limitation. They occur in more persistent talus slope habitats maintained by weathering, slumping, frost heaving, and tumbling. Biological processes there are slower and vegetation communities not as developed. We propose a conceptual model describing the interaction of geological and biological processes that influence auklet demography. We conclude that least and crested auklets require episodic disturbance (provided by volcanoes, earthquakes, and rock fall deposits) to maintain access to nest crevices. Auklets thereby provide an example of disturbance-adapted, early successional species that self-inhibit if their habitat is not regularly disturbed.

Language

english

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