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Episodes of high recruitment buffer against climate-driven mass mortality events in a North Pacific seabird population

Citation

Johns, Michael et al. (2021), Episodes of high recruitment buffer against climate-driven mass mortality events in a North Pacific seabird population, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.9kd51c5j9

Abstract

Longitudinal studies of marked animals provide an opportunity to assess the relative contributions of survival and reproductive output to population dynamics and change. Cassin’s auklets are a long-lived seabird that maximizes annual reproductive effort in resource-rich years through a behavior called double brooding, the initiation of a second breeding attempt following the success of the first during the same season. Our objective was to explore whether double brooding influenced population change by contributing a greater number of future recruits. We fit temporal symmetry models to 32-years of mark-recapture data of Cassin’s auklets to infer the mechanisms underlying the observed variability in per capita recruitment rates. We found that periodic peaks in recruitment were explained by an increase in available nest sites, the proportion of the population double brooding 4 years prior, and spring upwelling conditions. Estimates of population change suggests a relatively stable population throughout the time series, attributable to a “floating” demographic class of sexually mature individuals excluded from breeding by competition which quickly fill vacant sites following periods of low adult survival. Our results highlight the importance of recruitment in maintaining the population of a long-lived seabird periodically impacted by adverse environmental conditions.