Estimating the distribution of demand for Antarctic krill (Euphauisa superba) from land-based predators at South Georgia
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South Georgia is renowned for the abundance of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) and a range of krill predators. Variability in krill availability at a range of scales, and the consequences of this for predator-prey interactions, mean that quantifying the spatially explicit demand for krill by those predators is essential to understanding the mechanisms underlying ecosystem changes in the region. In this thesis demand within a distinct study box to the northwest of the island has been assessed. The thesis has three sections; (1) the number of predators; (2) the distribution of predators; and (3) the demand for krill by those predators. (1) Predator densities with confidence intervals were determined from appropriately designed shipboard transect survey; counts of Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella), macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus), gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua), and Antarctic prions (Pachyptila desolata) were adjusted for sea state, distance from observer and dive behaviour. Providing the first at-sea predator density estimates for the region. (2) A comparison of the distribution of female Antarctic fur seals engaged in pup-rearing (using satellite telemetry) and the whole population that were not restricted to a single part of the population (from shipboard transect survey) was undertaken. Using two general additive models based on the relationship between seal distribution (one derived from transect and the other from telemetry) and the physical environment indicated that the spatial distribution of lactating females is representative of the general population. (3) Using the derived predator density, the local krill demand estimate was 2581 tonnes krill per day, a consumption rate of 0.45% per day of the concurrently estimated krill biomass (using shipboard acoustics). Antarctic fur seals accounted for 75% of this demand. This level of demand was less than the increase in biomass resulting from krill growth. However, based on the length-specific demand, determined from concurrent predator diet samples demand exceeded growth for krill >48mm.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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