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Modelling marine predator habitat using the abundance of its pelagic prey in the tropical southwestern Pacific

Abstract : Understanding the ecological mechanisms underpinning distribution patterns is vital in managing populations of mobile marine species. This study is a first step towards an integrated description of the habitats and spatial distributions of marine predators in the Natural Park of the Coral Sea, one of the world’s largest marine-protected areas at about 1.3 million km², covering the entirety of New Caledonia’s pelagic waters. The study aims to quantify the benefit of including a proxy for prey abundance in predator niche modelling, relative to other marine physical variables. Spatial distributions and relationships with environmental data were analysed using catch per unit of effort data for three fish species (albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna and dolphinfish), sightings collected from aerial surveys for three cetacean guilds (Delphininae, Globicephalinae and Ziphiidae) and foraging locations identified from bio-tracking for three seabird species (wedge-tailed shearwater, Tahiti petrel and red-footed booby). Predator distributions were modelled as a function of a static covariate (bathymetry), oceanographic covariates (sea surface temperature, chlorophyll-a concentration and 20 °C-isotherm depth) and an acoustically derived micronekton preyscape covariate. While distributions were mostly linked to bathymetry for seabirds, and chlorophyll and temperature for fish and cetaceans, acoustically derived prey abundance proxies slightly improved distribution models for all fishes and seabirds except the Tahiti petrel, but not for the cetaceans. Predicted spatial distributions showed that pelagic habitats occupied by predator fishes did not spatially overlap. Finally, predicted habitats and the use of the preyscapes in predator habitat modelling are discussed.
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https://hal.ird.fr/ird-03715868
Contributor : Philippe Borsa Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 6, 2022 - 10:49:40 PM
Last modification on : Friday, December 2, 2022 - 10:40:01 AM

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Aurore Receveur, Valerie Allain, Frederic Menard, Anne Lebourges Dhaussy, Sophie Laran, et al.. Modelling marine predator habitat using the abundance of its pelagic prey in the tropical southwestern Pacific. Ecosystems, 2022, 25 (6), pp.757-779. ⟨10.1007/s10021-021-00685-x⟩. ⟨ird-03715868⟩

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