We investigate the influence of krill (principally Euphausia superba) patchiness on the foraging distributions of seabirds to understand how variation in krill influences patch dynamics between krill and birds. At sea surveys were conducted near Elephant Island, Antarctica for three years (2004-2006) during the annual U.S. Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR) program. Standardized strip-transect surveys were used to map seabirds, and a combination of acoustic and net surveys was used to map krill. We measured patch size of krill and seabirds and elucidated how krill patch dynamics influence foraging seabirds. The spatial association between krill and predators was influenced by the size and arrangement of krill patches. We found a negative relationship between abundance and patchiness of krill and predators, indicating that when krill is less abundant, krill and its predators are less abundant and concentrated. We conclude that annual patch dynamics of krill strongly influences the local abundance and distribution of seabirds. Such information should be used to interpret potential interactions between seabirds and krill fisheries operating near Elephant Island.
(Fish. Oceanogr., in press)