USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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Released: 2016
Felis, JJ, ML Kissling, RSA Kaler, LA Kenney, MJ Lawonn. 2016. IDENTIFYING KITTLITZ’S MURRELET NESTING HABITAT IN NORTH AMERICA AT THE LANDSCAPE SCALE. 43rd Annual Meeting Pacific Seabird Group, Oahu HI. 10-13 February 2016

The Kittlitz’s Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) is a small, non-colonial seabird endemic to marine waters of Alaska and eastern Russia that may have experienced significant population decline in recent decades, in part because of low reproductive success and terrestrial threats. Although recent studies have shed new light on Kittlitz’s Murrelet nesting habitat in a few discrete areas, the location and extent of suitable nesting habitat throughout most of its range remains unclear. Herein, we compiled all existing nest records and locations to identify landscape-scale parameters (distance to coast, elevation, slope, and land cover) that provide potential nesting habitat in four regions: northern Alaska, Aleutian Islands, Alaska Peninsula Mountains and Kodiak Island, and Pacific Coastal Mountains (including nearshore interior Canada). We produced a final map classifying 12% (70,411 km2) of the lands assessed as potential Kittlitz’s Murrelet nesting habitat, with dense but distinct patches in northern Alaska and a more uninterrupted, narrow band extending across the Pacific Coastal Mountains, Alaska Peninsula Mountains, and Aleutian Islands. We found considerable regional variation in the extent of habitat-capable parameter values, indicating the Kittlitz’s Murrelet may be able to use a variety of habitats for nesting depending on availability. Future nesting habitat studies should employ spatially random sampling designs to allow for more quantitatively robust modeling of nesting habitat and allow predictive extrapolation to areas where nests have not been located, but likely exist.

This product is associated with the following project:
Seabird Vulnerability Assessment for Renewable Energy Projects

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