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Modelling the effects of climate change on the population dynamics of an Antarctic seabirds community


Climate records have shown that the Earth is experiencing dramatic changes. Southern Ocean plays a critical role in global climate, but the consequences of its variability on the biological processes are poorly understood, especially in waters close to Antarctica. Seabirds are long-lived top predators that appear to integrate environmental variability over large spatial and temporal scales. Environmental changes have profound and contrasted effects on Antarctic seabirds populations. We thus strongly need models that relate climatic variables to population demographic parameters to compare and predict the different demographic responses to climate change.

However, missing are quantitative studies that explicitly link climate change and population fluctuations in a mechanistic population model. Moreover, a central question in ecology has been how to quantify the relative importance of stochastic and density- dependent factors for fluctuations in population size. The goal of this project is to compare the different demographic strategy, the relative impact of climate variability and density dependent effects, and finally predict the impact of climate change on population dynamics in a sea birds community.

The project constitutes a multi-disciplinary effort since it will combine expertise of field biologists and mathematical ecologists. It will use an extensive database of seabirds monitoring in Antarctica that provide all demographic parameters for several species. The modelling aspect will include demographic parameters estimation through capture-recapture multi-state models accounting for unobservable states and the modelling of population dynamics through matrix models. Then the impact of environmental variations and climate change on population dynamics will be examined and predicted through their impact on demographic parameters, and different strategies in a community will be compared.

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