Article thumbnail

The Effects of Climate Change on Harp Seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus)

By David W. Johnston, Matthew T. Bowers, Ari S. Friedlaender and David M. Lavigne

Abstract

Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) have evolved life history strategies to exploit seasonal sea ice as a breeding platform. As such, individuals are prepared to deal with fluctuations in the quantity and quality of ice in their breeding areas. It remains unclear, however, how shifts in climate may affect seal populations. The present study assesses the effects of climate change on harp seals through three linked analyses. First, we tested the effects of short-term climate variability on young-of-the year harp seal mortality using a linear regression of sea ice cover in the Gulf of St. Lawrence against stranding rates of dead harp seals in the region during 1992 to 2010. A similar regression of stranding rates and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index values was also conducted. These analyses revealed negative correlations between both ice cover and NAO conditions and seal mortality, indicating that lighter ice cover and lower NAO values result in higher mortality. A retrospective cross-correlation analysis of NAO conditions and sea ice cover from 1978 to 2011 revealed that NAO-related changes in sea ice may have contributed to the depletion of seals on the east coast of Canada during 1950 to 1972, and to their recovery during 1973 to 2000. This historical retrospective also reveals opposite links between neonatal mortality in harp seals in the Northeast Atlantic and NAO phase. Finally, an assessment of the long-term trends in sea ice cover in the breeding regions of harp seals across the entire North Atlantic during 1979 through 2011 using multiple linear regression models and mixed effects linear regression models revealed that sea ice cover in all harp seal breeding regions has been declining by as much as 6 percent per decade over the time series of available satellite data

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:3251559
Provided by: PubMed Central

Suggested articles

Citations

  1. (2008). A new harp seal whelping ground near South Greenland.
  2. (2007). A Review of Ice Conditions and Potential Impact on Harp Seal Neonatal Mortality in
  3. (2009). A sea ice free summer Arctic within 30 years?
  4. (2003). An overview of the North Atlantic Oscillation. In:
  5. (2008). Arctic marine mammals and climate change: Impacts and resilience.
  6. (2008). Boltnev A
  7. (2010). Changes in the reproductive parameters of female harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) in the Northwest Atlantic.
  8. (2008). Conservation of Arctic marine mammals faced with climate change.
  9. (2010). Cystophora cristata. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  10. (1985). Early postnatal mortality in Northwest Atlantic harp seals (Phoca groenlandica).
  11. (2010). Effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation on sea ice breeding habitats of harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) across the North Atlantic.
  12. (2009). Environmental and Ecological Statistics with R. Boca
  13. (2005). Estimates of human induced mortality in Northwest Atlantic Harp Seals, 1952–2004. Canadian Stock Assessment Secretariat Research Document.
  14. (1999). Estimating total kill of Northwest Atlantic harp seals,
  15. (2010). Forecasting climate variables using a mixed-effect state-space model. Environmetrics. pp n/a–n/a.
  16. (2006). GIS-based analysis of ice-breeding seal strandings in the Gulf of Maine.
  17. (1999). Global warming and Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent.
  18. (2002). Harp seal. Pagophilus groenlandicus.
  19. (1991). Harp seals, Man and Ice.
  20. (1988). Harps & hoods: Ice-breeding seals of the northwest Atlantic.
  21. (2008). High latitude changes in ice dynamics and their impact on polar marine ecosystems.
  22. (2010). Impacts of changing sea-ice conditions on Arctic. Mar Biodiv.
  23. (1998). Invasions of harp seals Phoca groenlandica Erxleben to coastal waters of Norway in 1995: ecological and demographic implications.
  24. (2010). lattice: Lattice Graphics.
  25. (2010). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package.
  26. (1994). Photoperiod control of birth timing in the harbour seal (Phoca vitulina).
  27. (2006). Possible effects of climate warming on selected populations of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Canadian Arctic.
  28. (1990). Rates and potential causes of mortality in North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis).
  29. (1996). Sea ice concentrations from Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I passive microwave data. National Snow and Ice Data Center.
  30. (1998). Seal mystery deaths troubling for P.E.I.: experts disagree on why carcasses washed ashore. The Toronto Star.
  31. (2011). The high fidelity of the cetacean stranding record: insights into measuring diversity by integrating taphonomy and macroecology.
  32. (1971). The status of Norwegian studies of harp seals at Newfoundland. International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Redbook Part III.
  33. (1995). Trends in age-composition, growth and reproductive parameters of Barents Sea harp seals, Phoca groenlandica.
  34. (2005). Variation in sea ice cover on the east coast of Canada from

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.