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Effects of whaling on the structure of the Southern Ocean food web: insights on the "krill surplus" from ecosystem modelling.

Surma S, Pakhomov EA, Pitcher TJ - PLoS ONE (2014)

Bottom Line: An additional suite of Ecosim scenarios reflecting several hypothetical trends in Southern Ocean primary productivity were employed to examine the effect of bottom-up forcing on the documented krill biomass trend.Our findings suggest that changes in physical conditions in the Southern Ocean during this time period could have eliminated the ecological effects of rorqual depletion, although the mechanism responsible is currently unknown.The results of this study underscore the need for further research on historical changes in the roles of top-down and bottom-up forcing in structuring the Southern Ocean food web.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

ABSTRACT
The aim of this study was to examine the ecological plausibility of the "krill surplus" hypothesis and the effects of whaling on the Southern Ocean food web using mass-balance ecosystem modelling. The depletion trajectory and unexploited biomass of each rorqual population in the Antarctic was reconstructed using yearly catch records and a set of species-specific surplus production models. The resulting estimates of the unexploited biomass of Antarctic rorquals were used to construct an Ecopath model of the Southern Ocean food web existing in 1900. The rorqual depletion trajectory was then used in an Ecosim scenario to drive rorqual biomasses and examine the "krill surplus" phenomenon and whaling effects on the food web in the years 1900-2008. An additional suite of Ecosim scenarios reflecting several hypothetical trends in Southern Ocean primary productivity were employed to examine the effect of bottom-up forcing on the documented krill biomass trend. The output of the Ecosim scenarios indicated that while the "krill surplus" hypothesis is a plausible explanation of the biomass trends observed in some penguin and pinniped species in the mid-20th century, the excess krill biomass was most likely eliminated by a rapid decline in primary productivity in the years 1975-1995. Our findings suggest that changes in physical conditions in the Southern Ocean during this time period could have eliminated the ecological effects of rorqual depletion, although the mechanism responsible is currently unknown. Furthermore, a decline in iron bioavailability due to rorqual depletion may have contributed to the rapid decline in overall Southern Ocean productivity during the last quarter of the 20th century. The results of this study underscore the need for further research on historical changes in the roles of top-down and bottom-up forcing in structuring the Southern Ocean food web.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

The biomass density time series for large rorquals (dotted) and small rorquals (dashed), reconstructed from IWC catch data tabulated by Leaper et al.[1]
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pone-0114978-g001: The biomass density time series for large rorquals (dotted) and small rorquals (dashed), reconstructed from IWC catch data tabulated by Leaper et al.[1]

Mentions: The pre-whaling biomass densities for the two modeled rorqual groups were calculated based on the current abundance estimates and total historical catches for each whale species (the latter extracted from International Whaling Commission (IWC) records reported by Leaper et al. [1]). The current abundances and yearly catches for each species were entered into a Schaefer model to yield a reconstruction of the pre-whaling biomass (B0, assumed to be equal to the carrying capacity K). The estimated intrinsic rate of increase (rc) used in each model was based on the maximum rate of increase (rmax) of 0.04 accepted as typical for baleen whales [29] and scaled for each species using recorded rates of increase and calving intervals. This scaling yielded values ranging from 0.05 for humpback and minke whales through 0.04 for sei whales to 0.03 for fin and 0.02 for blue whales. The yearly abundances for each species taken from the Schaefer model were converted to biomasses using the mean individual masses for each rorqual species given by Trites and Pauly [30], assuming a 1∶1 sex ratio. The reconstructed biomasses for the whale species in each functional group were summed to yield the total group biomasses. The latter were then divided by the total area of the Southern Ocean (36 million km2) in order to obtain pre-whaling biomass densities for entry into the Ecopath model. This process also yielded biomass time series for each rorqual group (Fig. 1), which were used to force their biomasses in the four Ecosim scenarios described below. Due to the lack of reliable time series, extending over a large fraction of the model run time, for functional groups other than rorquals, the dynamics of this model could not be validated by fitting to time series.


Effects of whaling on the structure of the Southern Ocean food web: insights on the "krill surplus" from ecosystem modelling.

Surma S, Pakhomov EA, Pitcher TJ - PLoS ONE (2014)

The biomass density time series for large rorquals (dotted) and small rorquals (dashed), reconstructed from IWC catch data tabulated by Leaper et al.[1]
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4269391&req=5

pone-0114978-g001: The biomass density time series for large rorquals (dotted) and small rorquals (dashed), reconstructed from IWC catch data tabulated by Leaper et al.[1]
Mentions: The pre-whaling biomass densities for the two modeled rorqual groups were calculated based on the current abundance estimates and total historical catches for each whale species (the latter extracted from International Whaling Commission (IWC) records reported by Leaper et al. [1]). The current abundances and yearly catches for each species were entered into a Schaefer model to yield a reconstruction of the pre-whaling biomass (B0, assumed to be equal to the carrying capacity K). The estimated intrinsic rate of increase (rc) used in each model was based on the maximum rate of increase (rmax) of 0.04 accepted as typical for baleen whales [29] and scaled for each species using recorded rates of increase and calving intervals. This scaling yielded values ranging from 0.05 for humpback and minke whales through 0.04 for sei whales to 0.03 for fin and 0.02 for blue whales. The yearly abundances for each species taken from the Schaefer model were converted to biomasses using the mean individual masses for each rorqual species given by Trites and Pauly [30], assuming a 1∶1 sex ratio. The reconstructed biomasses for the whale species in each functional group were summed to yield the total group biomasses. The latter were then divided by the total area of the Southern Ocean (36 million km2) in order to obtain pre-whaling biomass densities for entry into the Ecopath model. This process also yielded biomass time series for each rorqual group (Fig. 1), which were used to force their biomasses in the four Ecosim scenarios described below. Due to the lack of reliable time series, extending over a large fraction of the model run time, for functional groups other than rorquals, the dynamics of this model could not be validated by fitting to time series.

Bottom Line: An additional suite of Ecosim scenarios reflecting several hypothetical trends in Southern Ocean primary productivity were employed to examine the effect of bottom-up forcing on the documented krill biomass trend.Our findings suggest that changes in physical conditions in the Southern Ocean during this time period could have eliminated the ecological effects of rorqual depletion, although the mechanism responsible is currently unknown.The results of this study underscore the need for further research on historical changes in the roles of top-down and bottom-up forcing in structuring the Southern Ocean food web.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

ABSTRACT
The aim of this study was to examine the ecological plausibility of the "krill surplus" hypothesis and the effects of whaling on the Southern Ocean food web using mass-balance ecosystem modelling. The depletion trajectory and unexploited biomass of each rorqual population in the Antarctic was reconstructed using yearly catch records and a set of species-specific surplus production models. The resulting estimates of the unexploited biomass of Antarctic rorquals were used to construct an Ecopath model of the Southern Ocean food web existing in 1900. The rorqual depletion trajectory was then used in an Ecosim scenario to drive rorqual biomasses and examine the "krill surplus" phenomenon and whaling effects on the food web in the years 1900-2008. An additional suite of Ecosim scenarios reflecting several hypothetical trends in Southern Ocean primary productivity were employed to examine the effect of bottom-up forcing on the documented krill biomass trend. The output of the Ecosim scenarios indicated that while the "krill surplus" hypothesis is a plausible explanation of the biomass trends observed in some penguin and pinniped species in the mid-20th century, the excess krill biomass was most likely eliminated by a rapid decline in primary productivity in the years 1975-1995. Our findings suggest that changes in physical conditions in the Southern Ocean during this time period could have eliminated the ecological effects of rorqual depletion, although the mechanism responsible is currently unknown. Furthermore, a decline in iron bioavailability due to rorqual depletion may have contributed to the rapid decline in overall Southern Ocean productivity during the last quarter of the 20th century. The results of this study underscore the need for further research on historical changes in the roles of top-down and bottom-up forcing in structuring the Southern Ocean food web.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus