Environmental and behavioural drivers of Antarctic krill distribution at the South Orkney Islands: A regional perspective

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a key species in the marine ecosystem of the Southern Ocean, but is also the target of a commercial fishery, with an important fishing ground in the South Orkney Islands region. The potential for competition for krill between predators and the fishery requires risk management strategies for the fishery, underpinned by an understanding of the key physical and behavioural drivers of krill movement and retention in target areas. Here, we present the results of a regional modelling study, combining a high-resolution ocean-sea ice model and an individual-based model parameterised for krill, to elucidate the roles of oceanographic variability and krill behaviour on patterns of transport and retention on and around the South Orkney Plateau. Simulations suggest that oceanic transport from sources around the Antarctic Peninsula is restricted by the northward flowing Antarctic Slope Current. Around the South Orkney Plateau, anticyclonic flows associated with the Weddell Front and the shelf edge transport krill rapidly towards the main fishing grounds to the northwest of the plateau. Transport onto the shelf and subsequent retention are influenced by the strength and direction of regional winds; weaker on-shelf transport and shorter retention times are associated with stronger westerly and northerly winds. The incorporation of sea-ice associated behaviour, whereby krill are moved with sea ice when sea ice is present, significantly modifies the patterns from purely oceanic transport; it reduces the influence of strong regional oceanic flows and increases transport of krill to the South Orkneys region from the Antarctic Peninsula. The inclusion of diel vertical migration also modifies predicted patterns from oceanic transport, but to a lesser extent, and moderates the impact of including sea-ice associated behaviour. We highlight the importance of understanding the behaviour of krill, including age-dependent behavioural changes in response to sea ice conditions, for modelling and management of Antarctic krill populations.


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Authors: Young, Emma F. ORCIDORCID record for Emma F. Young, Thorpe, Sally E. ORCIDORCID record for Sally E. Thorpe, Renner, Angelika H.H., Murphy, Eugene J. ORCIDORCID record for Eugene J. Murphy

On this site: Eugene Murphy, Emma Young, Sally Thorpe
1 January, 2024
Journal of Marine Systems / 241
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