Tight coupling of primary production and marine mammal reproduction in the Southern Ocean
Paterson, J. Terrill
Rotella, Jay J.
Garrott, Robert A.
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Polynyas are areas of open water surrounded by sea ice and are important sources of primary production in high-latitude marine ecosystems. The magnitude of annual primary production in polynyas is controlled by the amount of exposure to solar radiation and sensitivity to changes in sea-ice extent. The degree of coupling between primary production and production by upper trophic-level consumers in these environments is not well understood, which prevents reliable predictions about population trajectories for species at higher trophic levels under potential future climate scenarios. In this study, we find a strong, positive relationship between annual primary production in an Antarctic polynya and pup production by ice-dependent Weddell seals. The timing of the relationship suggests reproductive effort increases to take advantage of high primary production occurring in the months after the birth pulse. Though the proximate causal mechanism is unknown, our results indicate tight coupling between organisms at disparate trophic levels on a short timescale, deepen our understanding of marine ecosystem processes, and raise interesting questions about why such coupling exists and what implications it has for understanding high-latitude ecosystems.
Paterson, J. Terrill, Jay J. Rotella, Kevin R. Arrigo, and Robert A. Garrott. "Tight coupling of primary production and marine mammal reproduction in the Southern Ocean." The Royal Society Proceedings B 282, no. 1806 (March 2015). DOI:https://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.3137 .