Global climate patterns explain range-wide synchronicity in survival of a migratory seabird Academic Article uri icon


  • To predict the impact of climate change over the whole species distribution range, comparison of adult survival variations over large spatial scale is of primary concern for long-lived species populations that are particularly susceptible to decline if adult survival is reduced. In this study, we estimated and compared adult survival rates between 1989 and 1997 of six populations of Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) spread across 4600 km using capture-recapture models. We showed that mean annual adult survival rates are different among populations along a longitudinal gradient and between sexes. Variation in adult survival is synchronized among populations, with three distinct groups: (1) both females and males of Corsica, Tremiti and Selvagem (annual survival range 0.88-0.96); (2) both females and males of Frioul and females from Crete (0.82-0.92); and (3) both females and males of Malta and males from Crete (0.74-0.88). The total variation accounted for by the common pattern of variation is on average 71%, suggesting strong environmental forcing. At least 61% of the variation in survival is explained by the Southern Oscillation Index fluctuations. We suggested that Atlantic hurricanes and storms during La Niña years may increase adult mortality for Cory’s shearwater during winter months. For long-lived seabird species, variation in adult survival is buffered against environmental variability, although extreme climate conditions such as storms significantly affect adult survival. The effect of climate at large spatial scales on adult survival during the non-breeding period may lead to synchronization of variation in adult survival over the species’ range and have large effects on the meta-population trends. One can thus worry about the future of such long-lived seabirds species under the predictions of higher frequency of extreme large scale climatic events.

publication date

  • January 2009