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Body size shifts and early warning signals precede the historic collapse of whale stocks


Clements, CF and Blanchard, JL and Nash, KL and Hindell, MA and Ozgul, A, Body size shifts and early warning signals precede the historic collapse of whale stocks, Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1 Article 0188. ISSN 2397-334X (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2017 Macmillan Publishers

DOI: doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0188


Predicting population declines is a key challenge in the face of global environmental change. Abundance-based early warning signals have been shown to precede population collapses; however, such signals are sensitive to the low reliability of abundance estimates. Here, using historical data on whales harvested during the 20th century, we demonstrate that early warning signals can be present not only in the abundance data, but also in the more reliable body size data of wild populations. We show that during the period of commercial whaling, the mean body size of caught whales declined dramatically (by up to 4 m over a 70-year period), leading to early warning signals being detectable up to 40 years before the global collapse of whale stocks. Combining abundance and body size data can reduce the length of the time series required to predict collapse, and decrease the chances of false positive early warning signals.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:body size, early warning indicators, whale, resilience, fisheries
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Ecosystem function
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Blanchard, JL (Professor Julia Blanchard)
UTAS Author:Nash, KL (Dr Kirsty Nash)
UTAS Author:Hindell, MA (Professor Mark Hindell)
ID Code:120165
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:36
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2017-08-12
Last Modified:2018-05-28

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