Change in the Beaufort Sea ecosystem: Diverging trends in body condition and/or production in five marine vertebrate species
|Change in the Beaufort Sea ecosystem: Diverging trends in body condition and/or production in five marine vertebrate species
|Year of Publication
|Harwood, LA, Smith, TG, George, JC, Sandstrom, SJ, Walkusz, W, Divoky, GJ
|Synthesis of Arctic Research (SOAR)
|263 - 273
Studies of the body condition of five marine vertebrate predators in the Beaufort Sea, conducted independently during the past 2–4 decades, suggest each has been affected by biophysical changes in the marine ecosystem. We summarize a temporal trend of increasing body condition in two species (bowhead whale subadults, Arctic char), in both cases influenced by the extent and persistence of annual sea ice. Three other species (ringed seal, beluga, black guillemot chicks), consumers with a dietary preference for Arctic cod, experienced declines in condition, growth and/or production during the same time period. The proximate causes of these observed changes remain unknown, but may reflect an upward trend in secondary productivity, and a concurrent downward trend in the availability of forage fishes, such as the preferred Arctic cod. To further our understanding of these apparent ecosystem shifts, we urge the use of multiple marine vertebrate species in the design of biophysical sampling studies to identify causes of these changes. Continued long-term, standardized monitoring of vertebrate body condition should be paired with concurrent direct (stomach contents) or indirect (isotopes, fatty acids) monitoring of diet, detailed study of movements and seasonal ranges to establish and refine baselines, and identification of critical habitats of the marine vertebrates being monitored. This would be coordinated with biophysical and oceanographic sampling, at spatial and temporal scales, and geographic locations, that are relevant to the home range, critical habitats and prey of the vertebrate indicator species showing changes in condition and related parameters.
|Progress in Oceanography