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The influence of historical climate changes on Southern Ocean marine predator populations: a comparative analysis

Citation

Younger, JL and Emmerson, LM and Miller, KJ, The influence of historical climate changes on Southern Ocean marine predator populations: a comparative analysis, Global Change Biology, 22, (2) pp. 474-493. ISSN 1354-1013 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1111/gcb.13104

Abstract

The Southern Ocean ecosystem is undergoing rapid physical and biological changes that are likely to have profound implications for higher-order predators. Here, we compare the long-term, historical responses of Southern Ocean predators to climate change. We examine palaeoecological evidence for changes in the abundance and distribution of seabirds and marine mammals, and place these into context with palaeoclimate records in order to identify key environmental drivers associated with population changes. Our synthesis revealed two key factors underlying Southern Ocean predator population changes; (i) the availability of ice-free ground for breeding and (ii) access to productive foraging grounds. The processes of glaciation and sea ice fluctuation were key; the distributions and abundances of elephant seals, snow petrels, gentoo, chinstrap and Adelie penguins all responded strongly to the emergence of new breeding habitat coincident with deglaciation and reductions in sea ice. Access to productive foraging grounds was another limiting factor, with snow petrels, king and emperor penguins all affected by reduced prey availability in the past. Several species were isolated in glacial refugia and there is evidence that refuge populations were supported by polynyas. While the underlying drivers of population change were similar across most Southern Ocean predators, the individual responses of species to environmental change varied because of species specific factors such as dispersal ability and environmental sensitivity. Such interspecific differences are likely to affect the future climate change responses of Southern Ocean marine predators and should be considered in conservation plans. Comparative palaeoecological studies are a valuable source of long-term data on speciesí responses to environmental change that can provide important insights into future climate change responses. This synthesis highlights the importance of protecting productive foraging grounds proximate to breeding locations, as well as the potential role of polynyas as future Southern Ocean refugia.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Antarctic, climate change ecology, Holocene, palaeoclimate, palaeoecology, penguin, pinniped, polynya, sub-Antarctic
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Palaeoecology
Objective Division:Environment
Objective Group:Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
Objective Field:Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
Author:Younger, JL (Ms Jane Younger)
Author:Miller, KJ (Dr Karen Miller)
ID Code:105760
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:Centre for Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2016-01-14
Last Modified:2017-11-08
Downloads:0

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