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Biogeography of the Marine Birds of a Confined Sea, the Mediterranean

Richard Zotier, Vincent Bretagnolle and Jean-Claude Thibault
Journal of Biogeography
Vol. 26, No. 2 (Mar., 1999), pp. 297-313
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2656116
Page Count: 17
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Biogeography of the Marine Birds of a Confined Sea, the Mediterranean
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Abstract

Aim The Mediterranean sea is a winter productive oligotrophic basin where Atlantic water replaces water lost through evaporation, this influx being a major source of productivity and fertility. The long coastlines and the large number of islands cause high oceanographic heterogeneity. Moreover, during its geological history, it has dried out several times. So we describe the consequences of these particular features on species richness, distribution, and breeding ecology of marine birds. Location The Mediterranean sea (including the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov) communicates with the Atlantic Ocean only through a 14 km wide channel (Straits of Gibraltar), and since 1869, with the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. Methods The Mediterranean was subdivided into different areas, according to physical oceanographic entities and productivity, linked to numbers and distribution of both breeding and wintering marine birds (defined as species strongly dependent on marine resources, breeding only on islands and/or the coastline). Results The total marine bird biomass, and species diversity, are lower in the Mediterranean than in the near Atlantic. The eastern Mediterranean, with lowest primary productivity, contains fewer marine bird taxa than the more productive western part. Taxa which mainly occur in the western and southern parts of the Mediterranean migrate through the Straits of Gibraltar to winter in the southern Atlantic, while those inhabiting the northern and eastern parts are sedentary, as a result of differences in species composition. Northern coastal basin communities (i.e. the Tyrrhenian and the Balearic Seas), are composed of less pelagic, and earlier breeding species, that rear chicks during the productive season. These latter taxa are actually the most typical Mediterranean taxa, in terms of endemism. Main conclusions The Mediterranean marine bird community is not tropical, but rather, shows the highest affinity with the Atlantic temperate community. Its level of endemism is however high and comparable to other confined basins such as the Red Sea.

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