Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

No. 110: Seabird baseline studies in Baffin Bay, 2008-2013

Frederiksen, M., Falk, K., Huffeldt, N.P., Johansen, K., Labansen, A.L., Linnebjerg, J.F., Merkel, F., Mosbech, A. 2014. Seabird baseline studies in Baffin Bay, 2008-2013. Colony-based fieldwork at Kippaku and Apparsuit, NW Greenland. Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, 58 pp. Scientific Report from DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy No. 110 http://dce2.au.dk/pub/SR110.pdf

Summary

As part of the environmental studies in connection with oil exploration in Baffin Bay, baseline studies of seabird ecology were carried out at colonies north of Upernavik during the summers of 2008-13. Most of the field work took place at the small island of Kippaku, with additional studies at nearby Apparsuit in 2013. The main study species were thick-billed murre and black-legged kittiwake. Data collection was to a large extent carried out with bird-borne electronic data loggers and time-lapse cameras, supplemented by observations.

GPS tracking of both species showed that important foraging areas during the breeding season (July) included fiords and archipelagoes as well as the open Baffin Bay up to 40 km offshore. These areas overlapped with existing exploration licenses. Both study species overwintered mainly on and east of the banks of Labrador and Newfoundland, and in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait.

Conditions for breeding murres and kittiwakes in the study area were very good in 2008-13. Breeding was early, parent birds did not have to work very hard, chicks grew rapidly and overall breeding success was high. These findings indicate that the availability of high-quality food (probably mainly capelin and polar cod) in the area was good. There were some differences among years, with later breeding in 2011 and 2013, probably due to later ice break-up.

The results of the baseline studies provide a benchmark, which will allow the evaluation of impacts of future oil activities or other environmental changes. Kippaku would be highly appropriate as a base for long-term monitoring of seabirds in Baffin Bay.