Will the Continental U.S. Lose its Tufted Puffins?
Hart, Christopher Jesse
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Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) populations have experienced dramatic declines since the mid 19th century along the southern portion of the species range, leading citizen groups to petition the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the species as endangered. While there remains no consensus on the mechanisms driving these trends, decreases in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem suggest climate-related factors, and in particular sea-surface temperature, play a role. This study uses three species distribution models (SDMs) to evaluate projected shifts in habitat suitable for Tufted Puffin nesting for the year 2050 under two future Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emission scenarios. Temperature variables demonstrated the largest contribution to model construction and ensemble model results suggest the key role of warming marine and terrestrial temperatures on the loss of Tufted Puffin habitat in the California Current under both carbon emission scenarios. By 2050, under both emission scenarios RCP 4.5 and 8.5, ensemble model results suggest the loss of greater than 26% of Tufted Puffin nesting habitat throughout its North American range. Ensemble model results also project that 100% of currently suitable habitat along the California Current is more likely than not to become unsuitable by 2050, regardless of emission mitigation strategies. These model results highlight a continuation of Tufted Puffin declines among southern breeding colonies and indicate a significant risk of near-term extirpation in the continental U.S.
- Marine affairs