Habitat associations of floating debris and marine birds in the North East Pacific Ocean at coarse and meso spatial scales

Andrew J Titmus, K David Hyrenbach
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2011, 62 (11): 2496-506
While many surface foraging seabirds ingest plastic, the spatial overlap of these far-ranging predators with debris aggregations at-sea is poorly understood. We surveyed concurrent distributions of marine birds and debris along a 4400 km cruise track within a debris accumulation area in the North East Pacific Ocean using line and strip transect methods. Analysis of debris and bird distributions revealed associations with oceanographic and weather variables at two spatial scales: daily surveys and hourly transects. Hourly bird abundance (densities; 0-9 birds km(-2)) was higher in lower wind and shallower water. Hourly debris abundance (densities; 0-15,222 pieces km(-2)) was higher in lower wind, higher sea-level atmospheric pressure and deeper water. These results suggest that debris and seabird abundance and community structure are influenced by similar environmental processes, but in opposing ways, with only three far-ranging seabird species (Black-footed Albatross, Cook's Petrel and Red-tailed Tropicbird) overlapping with high debris concentrations over meso-scales.

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