[MARMAM] New Publication: Humpback whale diets respond to variance in ocean climate and ecosystem conditions in the California Current

Alyson Fleming alyson.fleming at gmail.com
Tue Jan 5 15:24:39 PST 2016

Dear colleagues,
My co-authors and I are pleased to announce the following publication:

Fleming AH, Clark CT, Calambokidis J, Barlow J (2015) *Humpback whale diets
respond to variance in ocean climate and ecosystem conditions in the
California Current*. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13171

Large, migratory predators are often cited as sentinel species for
ecosystem processes and climate-related changes, but their utility as
indicators is dependent upon an understanding of their response to
environmental variability. Documentation of the links between climate
variability, ecosystem change and predator dynamics is absent for most top
predators. Identifying species that may be useful indicators and
elucidating these mechanistic links provides insight into current
ecological dynamics and may inform predictions of future ecosystem
responses to climatic change. We examine humpback whale response to
environmental variability through stable isotope analysis of diet over a
dynamic 20-year period (1993–2012) in the California Current System (CCS).
Humpback whale diets captured two major shifts in oceanographic and
ecological conditions in the CCS. Isotopic signatures reflect a diet
dominated by krill during periods characterized by positive phases of the
North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO), cool sea surface temperature (SST),
strong upwelling and high krill biomass. In contrast, humpback whale diets
are dominated by schooling fish when the NPGO is negative, SST is warmer,
seasonal upwelling is delayed and anchovy and sardine populations display
increased biomass and range expansion. These findings demonstrate that
humpback whales trophically respond to ecosystem shifts, and as a result,
their foraging behavior is a synoptic indicator of oceanographic and
ecological conditions across the CCS. Multi-decadal examination of these
sentinel species thus provides insight into biological consequences of
interannual climate fluctuations, fundamental to advancing ecosystem
predictions related to global climate change.

The paper is available online:

Questions or requests for PDF copies can be directed to
alyson.fleming at gmail.com.

Kind regards,
Alyson Fleming
Alyson Fleming
James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
(617) 913-9724
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