Spatiotemporal Drivers of Seabird Distribution at the Pacific Marine Energy Center off Newport, Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/jm214r31c

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  • The central Oregon coast was selected as an ideal site for wave energy development and establishment of the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC). PMEC will consist of two nearshore sites, one north (NETS) and one south (SETS) of the Yaquina River, Oregon. Our study aims to assess how the development of wave energy sites might impact marine birds. We used vessel-based strip transect surveys to detect spatial and temporal patterns of seabirds during 28 surveys of NETS and SETS from 2013-2015. We also conducted 29 surveys along the Newport Hydrographic Line (NHL) (2006-2009, 2013-2015), a cross-shelf oceanographic sampling line that extends 40 km west of NETS. We collected in situ measurements of surface conductivity, temperature and fluorescence to test correlations between spatial variables and seabird abundance. Common murres (Uria aalge) were the most abundant resident species (70%) while sooty shearwaters (Puffinus griseus) were the most abundant migratory species (78%). We identified 7 focal species (common murres, sooty shearwaters, Brandt's and pelagic cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus and pelagicus), western gull (Larus occidentalis), Cassin's auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus), and red-necked phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus), 5 foraging niches and 3 species of interest for analysis. We used non-metric multidimensional scaling ordinations to assess seasonal shifts in the seabird community at a focal species and foraging group level. Both ordinations depicted strong seasonal gradients with distinct seasonal communities. Focal species were also driven by a distance to shore gradient, while foraging niches were more influenced by foraging type (diving versus surface feeding). The shoreward shift or outward dispersal of species appears driven by a combination of factors, including the diffusion of nearshore concentration of murres and cormorants on Yaquina Head post chick fledging, and the inshore movement of migratory species with the onset of upwelling and greater prey abundance. We employed generalized additive mixed models for the focal species, and tested for correlations with in situ data (salinity, temperature and fluorescence), depth, substrate, season, and a random 'site' effect. We identified correlations between several species and measured oceanographic variables, which indicated species' selection of specific water masses. With Inverse Distance Weighted maps we detected high use zones by sooty shearwaters and common murres outside of both site boundaries, except during the spring and summer, when murres occur densely within the NETS. None of our observed species of concern (brown pelicans (Pelicanus occidentalis), black footed albatrosses (Phoebastria nigiripes) and marbled murrelets, (Brachyramphus marmoratus)) were detected within either site boundary. Rather, pelicans and murrelets were observed inshore of the SETS and south of the NETS, and albatrosses were all detected west of the sites. We observed overall low abundance of focal species within the sites, relative to adjacent areas, although the whole study area appears to be productive foraging habitat used by many species. As a baseline characterization of the seabird community off Newport, this work can help inform citing and permitting processes of similar wave energy test facilities and provide a platform for continued monitoring of seabirds in the area.
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