The marine environment is being increasingly exploited by fisheries and the oil and gas industry. Conservationists urgently need the ability to identify the processes that determine patterns of abundance of marine species. We describe a preliminary Geographic Information System (GIS) in which spatial data on environmental variables (seabird colony locations, sea depth and seabed sediments) are integrated with realistic energy constraints faced by marine birds during the breeding season. A simple foraging model predicts the spatial variation in the quality of given locations as potential feeding sites under different feeding conditions and stages of the breeding cycle. We show how the approach can be used to help managers identify key marine areas and assess the impacts of environmental change or damage.
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Vol. 8 • No. 1