Adaptive strategies and population dynamics of polar seabirds under environmental constraints
Assessing the ongoing and future adaptive capacities of populations to cope with global changes is a major challenge. Relying on multi- and trans-disciplinary expertise, P137 has selected four main animal models (and phylogenetically-related top-predators): king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus, Adélie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae, emperor penguins Aptenodytes forsteri, and Wilson’s storm petrels Oceanites oceanicus, to investigate the impact of environmental changes (natural and anthropic) on Southern Ocean ecosystems. P137 aims to explore in depth and draw a picture as complete as possible of the functional and evolutionary processes and trajectories of these bio-indicators of the Southern Ocean. Therefore, combining long-term monitoring programs (for instance, through automatic electronic Life Observatories that produce, since 1998, unique worldwide penguin databases without the biasing effects of flipper bands) and ad hoc targeted studies, on land and at sea, we are in a position to study two contrasting, but nonexclusive, mechanisms that can explain their population responses to environmental variability: (i) phenotypic plasticity responses and (ii) microevolutionary processes. In addition to work on individuals at the population level by determining and monitoring the flexibility and plasticity of numerous phenotypic traits (morphological, physiological, phenological and behavioural; accounting for sex, age, experience, condition/quality, etc.), we are also considering the function, and the structure according to different constraints (social structure, parasitism, predation, local meteorological conditions, etc., but also phylogenetic constraints), of the transitional layer that is the colony. To gauge the adaptive capacities of our study seabird species and their populations, we aim to evaluate the genetic basis of phenotypic traits and their plasticity that allow them to adapt to their environment, but also the genetic diversity and gene flow between colonies within and between archipelagos, key elements in the context of global changes. The development of new predictive models of population responses to ecosystem changes (models integrating individual-based models within demographic-selection modelling framework, based on scenarios forecast by the IPCC 2014) will be precious tools for population conservation measures and ecosystem management. Following the spirit of the last quadrennial, we will continue to develop cutting edge technological innovations to minimize experimental disturbances and resulting scientific bias, such as automatic radiofrequency identification, weighing and camera-tracking systems, mobile RFID antennas deployable on site or mounted on remote-operated vehicles, or networked implanted micro-loggers. In return, it will open new opportunities for science, bringing new research questions that could not have been addressed without these innovations.