Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

El Niño or La Niña: changes in wind patterns affect breeding in two North Pacific albatrosses

Lesley Thorne (School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, New York, USA) and colleagues have published open access in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface on Laysan Phoebastria immutabilis and Black-footed P. nigripes Albatrosses.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Changes to patterns of wind and ocean currents are tightly linked to climate change and have important implications for cost of travel and energy budgets in marine vertebrates.  We evaluated how El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-driven wind patterns affected breeding Laysan and black-footed albatross across a decade of study.  Owing to latitudinal variation in wind patterns, wind speed differed between habitat used during incubation and brooding; during La Niña conditions, wind speeds were lower in incubating Laysan (though not black-footed) albatross habitat, but higher in habitats used by brooding albatrosses.  Incubating Laysan albatrosses benefited from increased wind speeds during El Niño conditions, showing increased travel speeds and mass gained during foraging trips.  However, brooding albatrosses did not benefit from stronger winds during La Niña conditions, instead experiencing stronger cumulative headwinds and a smaller proportion of trips in tailwinds. Increased travel costs during brooding may contribute to the lower reproductive success observed in La Niña conditions.  Furthermore, benefits of stronger winds in incubating habitat may explain the higher reproductive success of Laysan albatross during El Niño conditions.  Our findings highlight the importance of considering habitat accessibility and cost of travel when evaluating the impacts of climate-driven habitat change on marine predators.”

Black footed and Laysan Albatrosses Kure Atoll Conservancy 

Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, photograph by Kure Atoll Conservancy


Thorne, L.H., Conners, M.G., Hazen, E.L., Bograd, S.J., Antolos, M., Costa, D.P. & Shaffer. S.A. 2016.  Effects of El Niño-driven changes in wind patterns on North Pacific albatrosses.  Journal of the Royal Society Interface 13: 20160196.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 June 2016

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