Spear Larry B.

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Larry B.

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    Physical and biological variables affecting seabird distributions during the upwelling season of the northern California Current
    ( 2004-08-28) Ainley, David G. ; Spear, Larry B. ; Tynan, Cynthia T. ; Barth, John A. ; Pierce, Stephen D. ; Ford, R. Glenn ; Cowles, Timothy J.
    As a part of the GLOBEC-Northeast Pacific project, we investigated variation in the abundance of marine birds in the context of biological and physical habitat conditions in the northern portion of the California Current System (CCS) during cruises during the upwelling season 2000. Continuous surveys of seabirds were conducted simultaneously in June (onset of upwelling) and August (mature phase of upwelling) with ocean properties quantified using a towed, undulating vehicle and a multi-frequency bioacoustic instrument (38-420 kHz). Twelve species of seabirds contributed 99% of the total community density and biomass. Species composition and densities were similar to those recorded elsewhere in the CCS during earlier studies of the upwelling season. At a scale of 2-4 km, physical and biological oceanographic variables explained an average of 25% of the variation in the distributions and abundance of the 12 species. The most important explanatory variables (among 14 initially included in each multiple regression model) were distance to upwelling-derived frontal features (center and edge of coastal jet, and an abrupt, inshore temperature gradient), sea-surface salinity, acoustic backscatter representing various sizes of prey (smaller seabird species were associated with smaller prey and the reverse for larger seabird species), and chlorophyll concentration. We discuss the importance of these variables in the context of what factors may be that seabirds use to find food. The high seabird density in the Heceta Bank and Cape Blanco areas indicate them to be refuges contrasting the low seabird densities currently found in most other parts of the CCS, following decline during the recent warm regime of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.