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Patterns of space use in sympatric marine colonial predators reveal scales of spatial partitioning


Jones, EL and McConnell, BJ and Smout, S and Hammond, PS and Duck, CD and Morris, CD and Thompson, D and Russell, DJF and Vincent, C and Cronin, M and Sharples, RJ and Matthiopoulos, J, Patterns of space use in sympatric marine colonial predators reveal scales of spatial partitioning, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 534 pp. 235-249. ISSN 0171-8630 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 Inter-Research

DOI: doi:10.3354/meps11370


Species distribution maps can provide important information to focus conservation efforts and enable spatial management of human activities. Two sympatric marine predators, grey seals Halichoerus grypus and harbour seals Phoca vitulina, have overlapping ranges on land and at sea but contrasting population dynamics around Britain: whilst grey seals have generally increased, harbour seals have shown significant regional declines. We analysed 2 decades of at-sea movement data and terrestrial count data from these species to produce high resolution, broad-scale maps of distribution and associated uncertainty to inform conservation and management. Our results showed that grey seals use offshore areas connected to their haul-out sites by prominent corridors, and harbour seals primarily stay within 50 km of the coastline. Both species show fine-scale offshore spatial segregation off the east coast of Britain and broad-scale partitioning off western Scotland. These results illustrate that, for broad-scale marine spatial planning, the conservation needs of harbour seals (primarily inshore, the exception being selected offshore usage areas) are different from those of grey seals (up to 100 km offshore and corridors connecting these areas to haul-out sites). More generally, our results illustrate the importance of detailed knowledge of marine predator distributions to inform marine spatial planning; for instance, spatial prioritisation is not necessarily the most effective spatial planning strategy even when conserving species with similar taxonomy.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Halichoerus grypus, Phoca vitulina, density estimation, propagating uncertainty, species distribution, telemetry, area-based conservation
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Zoology
Research Field:Animal behaviour
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Sharples, RJ (Dr Ruth Sharples)
ID Code:105999
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:36
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2016-01-22
Last Modified:2016-05-02

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