Long-distance foraging capability may help shield albatrosses from impacts of marine heatwaves

Marine Heatwaves Study Fig2

Figure 2. from the study: Predicted impacts on top predator habitat within (columns, e.g., 2014) and among (rows, e.g., White shark) marine heatwave events measured using four metrics.
"A Displacement distance (kilometers), B displacement direction (degrees, where 0/360 is north (N), 90 is east (E), 180 is south (S), and 270 is west (W)), Crange compression or expansion (percent change relative to baseline conditions), D habitat area gain or loss (percent change relative to baseline conditions). All metrics were calculated from August–October in each MHW year relative to baseline conditions (August–October 2000–2020), see Supplementary Table 5 for an analysis of metric uncertainty. Northern, Coastal, and Southern regional groupings indicate the geographies where the majority of the species telemetry data occurs. Source data are provided as a Source Data file."

Heather Welch (NOAA, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Environmental Research Division, USA) and colleagues have published in the journal Nature Communications on the responses of top predators to marine heatwaves in the Northeastern Pacific.

The abstract follows:

“Marine heatwaves cause widespread environmental, biological, and socio-economic impacts, placing them at the forefront of 21st-century management challenges. However, heatwaves vary in intensity and evolution, and a paucity of information on how this variability impacts marine species limits our ability to proactively manage for these extreme events. Here, we model the effects of four recent heatwaves (2014, 2015, 2019, 2020) in the Northeastern Pacific on the distributions of 14 top predator species of ecological, cultural, and commercial importance. Predicted responses were highly variable across species and heatwaves, ranging from near total loss of habitat to a two-fold increase. Heatwaves rapidly altered political bio-geographies, with up to 10% of predicted habitat across all species shifting jurisdictions during individual heatwaves. The variability in predicted responses across species and heatwaves portends the need for novel management solutions that can rapidly respond to extreme climate events. As proof-of-concept, we developed an operational dynamic ocean management tool that predicts predator distributions and responses to extreme conditions in near real-time.”


Welch, H., Savoca, M.S., Brodie, S. et al. Impacts of marine heatwaves on top predator distributions are variable but predictable. Nat Commun 14, 5188 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-40849-y

20 October 2023

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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