Trophic Mismatches of Five Seabirds and Their Piscivorous Prey
Burthe, S., Daunt, F., Butler, A., Elston, D.A., Frederiksen, M., Johns, D., Newell, M., Thackeray, S.J. and Wanless, S. 2012. Phenological trends and trophic mismatch across multiple levels of a North Sea pelagic food web. Marine Ecology Progress Series 454: 119-133.
Against this backdrop and working in a portion of the North Sea (55 to 58°N, 3°W to 0°E), Burthe et al. "compared phenological trends for species from four levels of a North Sea food web over 24 years [1983-2006] when sea surface temperature (SST) increased significantly," starting with primary producers (phytoplankton), primary consumers (zooplankton), secondary consumers (sandeels), and finally focusing on five seabird predators - the common guillemot (Uria aalge), the razor bill (Alca torda), the European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), the black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) - all of which seabirds prey on current-year sandeels (Ammodytes marinus).
In discussing their results the nine researchers reveal they found "little consistency in phenological trends between adjacent trophic levels, no significant relationships with SST, and no significant pairwise correlations between predator and prey phenologies," which they take as evidence that "trophic mismatching is occurring," such that prey length and, therefore, the prey's energy value "have declined significantly."
In spite of the significant trophic mismatches that Burthe et al. discovered over the course of their research - and rather surprisingly, it might be added - they report that "to date, there is no evidence that these changes are impacting on the breeding success of any of the seabird species." Somehow, even birdbrains have learned to deal with the situation, suggesting that trophic mismatches need not be as deadly as sometimes presumed.
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