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Bio-physical characterisation of polynyas as a key foraging habitat for juvenile male southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) in Prydz Bay, East Antarctica

Citation

Malpress, V and Bestley, S and Corney, S and Welsford, D and Labrousse, S and Sumner, M and Hindell, M, Bio-physical characterisation of polynyas as a key foraging habitat for juvenile male southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) in Prydz Bay, East Antarctica, PLoS One, 12, (9) Article e0184536. ISSN 1932-6203 (2017) [Refereed Article]


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DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0184536

Abstract

Antarctic coastal polynyas are persistent open water areas in the sea ice zone, and regions of high biological productivity thought to be important foraging habitat for marine predators. This study quantified southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) habitat use within and around the polynyas of the Prydz Bay region (63E 88E) in East Antarctica, and examined the bio-physical characteristics structuring polynyas as foraging habitat. Output from a climatological regional ocean model was used to provide context for in situ temperature-salinity vertical profiles collected by tagged elephant seals and to characterise the physical properties structuring polynyas. Biological properties were explored using remotely-sensed surface chlorophyll (Chl-a) and, qualitatively, historical fish assemblage data. Spatially gridded residence time of seals was examined in relation to habitat characteristics using generalized additive mixed models. The results showed clear polynya usage during early autumn and increasingly concentrated usage during early winter. Bathymetry, Chl-a, surface net heat flux (representing polynya location), and bottom temperature were identified as significant bio-physical predictors of the spatio-temporal habitat usage. The findings from this study confirm that the most important marine habitats for juvenile male southern elephant seals within Prydz Bay region are polynyas. A hypothesis exists regarding the seasonal evolution of primary productivity, coupling from surface to subsurface productivity and supporting elevated rates of secondary production in the upper water column during summer-autumn. An advancement to this hypothesis is proposed here, whereby this bio-physical coupling is likely to extend throughout the water column as it becomes fully convected during autumn-winter, to also promote pelagic-benthic linkages important for benthic foraging within polynyas.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Southern Ocean, polynyas, oceanography, elephant seals
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environment
Objective Group:Ecosystem Assessment and Management
Objective Field:Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Environments
Author:Malpress, V (Miss Veda Malpress)
Author:Bestley, S (Dr Sophie Bestley)
Author:Corney, S (Dr Stuart Corney)
Author:Labrousse, S (Ms Sara Labrousse)
Author:Sumner, M (Mr Michael Sumner)
Author:Hindell, M (Professor Mark Hindell)
ID Code:122403
Year Published:2017
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (A00104696)
Deposited By:Centre for Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2017-11-13
Last Modified:2017-11-13
Downloads:0

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