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Insights from the first global population estimate of Weddell seals in Antarctica
LaRue, M.; Salas, L.; Nur, N.; Ainley, D.; Stammerjohn, S.; Pennycook, J.; Dozier, M.; Saints, J.; Stamatiou, K.; Barrington, L.; Rotella, J. (2021). Insights from the first global population estimate of Weddell seals in Antarctica. Science Advances 7(39): eabh3674 . https://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abh3674
In: Science Advances. AAAS: New York. ISSN 2375-2548, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Authors  Top 
  • LaRue, M.
  • Salas, L.
  • Nur, N.
  • Ainley, D.
  • Stammerjohn, S.
  • Pennycook, J.
  • Dozier, M.
  • Saints, J.
  • Stamatiou, K.
  • Barrington, L.
  • Rotella, J.

Abstract
    The Weddell seal is one of the best-studied marine mammals in the world, owing to a multidecadal demographic effort in the southernmost part of its range. Despite their occurrence around the Antarctic coastline, we know little about larger scale patterns in distribution, population size, or structure. We combined high-resolution satellite imagery from 2011, crowd-sourcing, and habitat modeling to report the first global population estimate for the species and environmental factors that influence its distribution. We estimated ~202,000 (95% confidence interval: 85,345 to 523,140) sub-adult and adult female seals, with proximate ocean depth and fast-ice variables as factors explaining spatial prevalence. Distances to penguin colonies were associated with seal presence, but only emperor penguin population size had a strong negative relationship. The small, estimated population size relative to previous estimates and the seals’ nexus with trophic competitors indicates that a community ecology approach is required in efforts to monitor the Southern Ocean ecosystem.

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