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ArticleMarine ecosystem assessment for the Southern Ocean: birds and marine mammals in a changing climate(Frontiers Media, 2020-11-04) Bestley, Sophie ; Ropert-Coudert, Yan ; Bengtson Nash, Susan ; Brooks, Cassandra M. ; Cotté, Cédric ; Dewar, Meagan ; Friedlaender, Ari S. ; Jackson, Jennifer A. ; Labrousse, Sara ; Lowther, Andrew D. ; McMahon, Clive R. ; Phillips, Richard A. ; Pistorius, Pierre ; Puskic, Peter S. ; de Almeida Reis, Ana Olívia ; Reisinger, Ryan ; Santos, Mercedes ; Tarszisz, Esther ; Tixier, Paul ; Trathan, Phil N. ; Wege, Mia ; Wienecke, BarbaraThe massive number of seabirds (penguins and procellariiformes) and marine mammals (cetaceans and pinnipeds) – referred to here as top predators – is one of the most iconic components of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean. They play an important role as highly mobile consumers, structuring and connecting pelagic marine food webs and are widely studied relative to other taxa. Many birds and mammals establish dense breeding colonies or use haul-out sites, making them relatively easy to study. Cetaceans, however, spend their lives at sea and thus aspects of their life cycle are more complicated to monitor and study. Nevertheless, they all feed at sea and their reproductive success depends on the food availability in the marine environment, hence they are considered useful indicators of the state of the marine resources. In general, top predators have large body sizes that allow for instrumentation with miniature data-recording or transmitting devices to monitor their activities at sea. Development of scientific techniques to study reproduction and foraging of top predators has led to substantial scientific literature on their population trends, key biological parameters, migratory patterns, foraging and feeding ecology, and linkages with atmospheric or oceanographic dynamics, for a number of species and regions. We briefly summarize the vast literature on Southern Ocean top predators, focusing on the most recent syntheses. We also provide an overview on the key current and emerging pressures faced by these animals as a result of both natural and human causes. We recognize the overarching impact that environmental changes driven by climate change have on the ecology of these species. We also evaluate direct and indirect interactions between marine predators and other factors such as disease, pollution, land disturbance and the increasing pressure from global fisheries in the Southern Ocean. Where possible we consider the data availability for assessing the status and trends for each of these components, their capacity for resilience or recovery, effectiveness of management responses, risk likelihood of key impacts and future outlook.
ArticleRegional variation in winter foraging strategies by Weddell Seals in Eastern Antarctica and the Ross Sea(Frontiers Media, 2021-09-22) Harcourt, Robert ; Hindell, Mark ; McMahon, Clive R. ; Goetz, Kimberly T. ; Charrassin, Jean-Benoit ; Heerah, Karine ; Holser, Rachel R. ; Jonsen, Ian ; Shero, Michelle R. ; Hoenner, Xavier ; Foster, Rose ; Lenting, Baukje ; Tarszisz, Esther ; Pinkerton, Matthew H.The relative importance of intrinsic and extrinsic determinants of animal foraging is often difficult to quantify. The most southerly breeding mammal, the Weddell seal, remains in the Antarctic pack-ice year-round. We compared Weddell seals tagged at three geographically and hydrographically distinct locations in East Antarctica (Prydz Bay, Terre Adélie, and the Ross Sea) to quantify the role of individual variability and habitat structure in winter foraging behaviour. Most Weddell seals remained in relatively small areas close to the coast throughout the winter, but some dispersed widely. Individual utilisation distributions (UDi, a measure of the total area used by an individual seal) ranged from 125 to 20,825 km2. This variability was not due to size or sex but may be due to other intrinsic states for example reproductive condition or personality. The type of foraging (benthic vs. pelagic) varied from 56.6 ± 14.9% benthic dives in Prydz Bay through 42.1 ± 9.4% Terre Adélie to only 25.1 ± 8.7% in the Ross Sea reflecting regional hydrographic structure. The probability of benthic diving was less likely the deeper the ocean. Ocean topography was also influential at the population level; seals from Terre Adélie, with its relatively narrow continental shelf, had a core (50%) UD of only 200 km2, considerably smaller than the Ross Sea (1650 km2) and Prydz Bay (1700 km2). Sea ice concentration had little influence on the time the seals spent in shallow coastal waters, but in deeper offshore water they used areas of higher ice concentration. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Ross Sea encompass all the observed Weddell seal habitat, and future MPAs that include the Antarctic continental shelf are likely to effectively protect key Weddell seal habitat.