Modelling southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina using an individual-based model coupled with a dynamic energy budget
Goedegebuure, M and Melbourne-Thomas, J and Corney, SP and McMahon, CR and Hindell, MA, Modelling southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina using an individual-based model coupled with a dynamic energy budget, PloS ONE, 13, (3) Article e0194950. ISSN 1932-6203 (2018) [Refereed Article]
Higher trophic-level species are an integral component of any marine ecosystem. Despite their importance, methods for representing these species in end-to-end ecosystem models often have limited representation of life histories, energetics and behaviour. We built an individual-based model coupled with a dynamic energy budget for female southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina to demonstrate a method for detailed representation of marine mammals. We aimed to develop a model which could i) simulate energy use and life histories, as well as breeding traits of southern elephant seals in an emergent manner, ii) project a stable population over time, and iii) have realistic population dynamics and structure based on emergent life history features (such as age at first breeding, lifespan, fecundity and (yearling) survival). We evaluated the model's ability to represent a stable population over long time periods (>10 generations), including the sensitivity of the emergent properties to variations in key parameters. Analyses indicated that the model is sensitive to changes in resource availability and energy requirements for the transition from pup to juvenile, and juvenile to adult stage. This was particularly the case for breeding success and yearling survival. This model is suitable for use as a standalone tool for investigating the impacts of changes to behaviour and population responses of southern elephant seals.
marine mammals, higher trophic-level predators, ecosystem model, individual-based model, dynamic energy budget theory, southern elephant seal