Results of the sensitivity analysis in Niche Mapper for the daily energy requirements of little auks in winter from Energyscapes and prey fields shape a North Atlantic seabird wintering hotspot under climate change

There is an urgent need for a better understanding of animal migratory ecology under the influence of climate change. Most current analyses require long-term monitoring of populations on the move, and shorter-term approaches are needed. Here, we analysed the ecological drivers of seabird migration within the framework of the energyscape concept, which we defined as the variations in the energy requirements of an organism across geographical space as a function of environmental conditions. We compared the winter location of seabirds with their modelled energy requirements and prey fields throughout the North Atlantic. Across six winters, we tracked the migration of 94 little auks (<i>Alle alle</i>), a key sentinel Arctic species, between their East-Greenland breeding site and wintering areas off Newfoundland. Winter energyscapes were modelled with Niche Mapper™, a mechanistic tool which takes into account local climate and bird ecophysiology. Subsequently, we used a resource selection function to explain seabird distributions through modelled energyscapes and winter surface distribution of one of their main prey, <i>Calanus finmarchicus</i>. Finally, future energyscapes were calculated according to IPCC climate change scenarios. We found that little auks targeted areas with high prey densities and moderately elevated energyscapes. Predicted energyscapes for 2050 and 2095 showed a decrease in winter energy requirements under the high emission scenario, which may be beneficial if prey availability is maintained. Overall, our study demonstrates the great potential of the energyscape concept for the study of animal spatial ecology, in particular in the context of global change.