Southern Ocean environmental changes: effects on seabird, seal and whale populations

The main changes in the distribution and abundance of marine top predators in the Antarctic in the last two centuries were caused by hum an over-exploitation. Hypotheses that increases in populations of krill-eating penguins and seals represent recovery from exploitation, accelerated by removal of krill-eating whales, are being re-evaluated in the light of correlations between population size and reproductive success of seabirds and seals and various features of the biological and physical environment. These correlations involve phocid and otariid seals, penguins and flying birds and sites ranging from the Antarctic continent to sub-Antarctic islands. Although the nature of, and balance between, physical and biological influences differ between sites, regions and different types of predator, processes (including potentially important links with the Southern Oscillation) involving sea-ice extent and distribution play a key role. Major uncertainties over the nature of the links between physical and biological processes and the responses of marine populations preclude any confident prediction of the potential effects of future environmental change. However, certain taxa, especially those of specialist ecology, extreme demography and restricted distribution (especially in high latitudes) are especially vulnerable to at least some of the likely environmental changes.


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Authors: Croxall, J. P.

1 November, 1992
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences / 338
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