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- Spatial assessment of fin whale hotspots and their association with krill within an important Antarctic feeding and fishing ground
- Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus quoyi) habitat use and its relationship to environmental conditions are generally unknown in the Southern Ocean, presenting challenges for predicting their seasonal occurrence and potential effects of fishing pressure and climate change on this endangered species. Using biological data collected during 14 shipboard surveys off the northern Antarctic Peninsula and oceanographic data from satellite remote sensing, we mapped the distribution of fin whale hotspots, Antarctic krill abundance (biomass from acoustics, concentrations from nets) and ocean conditions during mid- and late-summer to investigate the environmental determinants of whale hotspots. Generalized additive models (GAM) were used to test the hypothesis that intra-seasonal changes in fin whale hotspot distribution relate to sea surface temperature (SST), krill abundance and eddy kinetic energy (EKE). More whale hotspots (sightings and individuals) are observed during late- than mid-summer surveys. During mid-summer, hotspots occurred near Elephant Island while in late-summer they were distributed throughout the slope region in proximity to the mean location of the southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front. The spatial mean of EKE did not differ between mid- and late-summer surveys, but the spatial mean of SST was significantly warmer during late-summer. The GAM for mid-summer indicates that fin whale hotspots were positively related to SST, EKE and acoustically determined krill biomass. The GAM for late-summer indicates the hotspots were negatively related to net-based krill abundance and positively related to acoustic krill biomass and EKE. This study is important because environmental determinants of fin whale hotspots may be used as reference points for implementing future conservation plans for their recovering populations. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
- Santora, Schroeder, Loeb
- Anthropogenic disturbance and biodiversity of marine benthic communities in Antarctica: A regional comparison
- The impacts of two Antarctic stations in different regions, on marine sediment macrofaunal communities were compared: McMurdo, a very large station in the Ross Sea; and Casey, a more typical small station in East Antarctica. Community structure and diversity were compared along a gradient of anthropogenic disturbance from heavily contaminated to uncontaminated locations. We examined some of the inherent problems in comparing data from unrelated studies, such as different sampling methods, spatial and temporal scales of sampling and taxonomic uncertainty. These issues generated specific biases which were taken into account when interpreting patterns. Control sites in the two regions had very different communities but both were dominated by crustaceans. Community responses to anthropogenic disturbance (sediment contamination by metals, oils and sewage) were also different. At McMurdo the proportion of crustaceans decreased in disturbed areas and polychaetes became dominant, whereas at Casey, crustaceans increased in response to disturbance, largely through an increase in amphipods. Despite differing overall community responses there were some common elements. Ostracods, cumaceans and echinoderms were sensitive to disturbance in both regions. Capitellid, dorvelleid and orbiniid polychaetes were indicative of disturbed sites. Amphipods, isopods and tanaids had different responses at each station. Biodiversity and taxonomic distinctness were significantly lower at disturbed locations in both regions. The size of the impact, however, was not related to the level of contamination, with a larger reduction in biodiversity at Casey, the smaller, less polluted station. The impacts of small stations, with low to moderate levels of contamination, can thus be as great as those of large or heavily contaminated stations. Regional broad scale environmental influences may be important in determining the composition of communities and thus their response to disturbance, but there are some generalizations regarding responses which will aid future management of stations. © 2014 Stark et al., Antarctica
- Stark, Kim, Oliver