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A comprehensive isotopic investigation of habitat preferences in nonbreeding albatrosses from the Southern Ocean


Cherel, Y and Jaeger, A and Alderman, RL and Jaquemet, S and Richard, P and Wanless, RM and Phillips, RA and Thompson, DR, A comprehensive isotopic investigation of habitat preferences in nonbreeding albatrosses from the Southern Ocean, Ecography, 36, (3) pp. 277-286. ISSN 0906-7590 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2012 The Authors. Ecography 2012 Nordic Society Oikos

DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1600-0587.2012.07466.x


Albatrosses are among the world's most endangered seabirds. Threats during the nonbreeding period have major impacts on their population dynamics, but for most species, detailed information on distribution and ecology remains essentially unknown. We used stable isotope values (δ13C and δ15N) in feathers to infer and compare the moulting (nonbreeding) habitats of 35 populations that include all the 20 species and subspecies (444 individuals) of albatrosses breeding within the Southern Ocean and in fringing subtropical waters. Isotopic values together with a review of available information show that the 20 albatrosses can be categorized into three groups depending on their favoured moulting grounds: 12 (60%) taxa forage primarily in warm neritic waters, six (30%) in northern oceanic waters and two (10%) in oceanic waters of the Southern Ocean. Stable isotopes indicate that habitat preferences during the nonbreeding period vary much less among different breeding populations in some species (wandering, Salvin's, grey-headed and light-mantled sooty albatrosses), than others (black-browed, Indian yellow-nosed and sooty albatrosses). The major finding of our isotopic investigation is that the great majority of albatrosses spend the nonbreeding period outside the Southern Ocean, with only three species (and in the sooty albatross, just one of the breeding populations) favouring oceanic subantarctic waters at that time. Hence, the study highlights the overwhelming importance of subtropical waters for albatrosses, where the birds are known to interact with human activities and are more likely to be negatively affected by the diverse range of fisheries operating in both neritic and oceanic waters.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:breeding population, breeding site, carbon isotope, endangered species, habitat selection, human activity, isotopic analysis, molt, seabird, stable isotope, subantarctic region, subspecies, subtidal environment, subtropical region, Southern Ocean
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Alderman, RL (Ms Rachael Alderman)
ID Code:118954
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:30
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2017-07-24
Last Modified:2017-10-16

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