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    Temporal variability in Antarctic marine ecosystems: periodic fluctuations in the phocid seals

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    Document Number:
    WG-CEMP-91/13
    Author(s):
    J.W. Testa, G. Oehlert, D.G. Ainley, J.L. Bengtson, D.B. Siniff, R.M. Laws and D. Rounsevell (USA)
    Agenda Item(s)
    Abstract

    Three species of seals around Antarctica have shown quasi-cyclic patterns in some aspect of their biology: the age structure of crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophagus) around the Antarctic Peninsula has shown strong cohorts separated by 4- to 5-yr intervals; juvenile leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) have appeared in unusually large numbers at Macquarie Island, also at 4- to 5-yr intervals; and Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in McMurdo Sound have undergone fluctuations in reproductive rate every 4-6 yr. Complex demodulation was used to compare patterns among these three data sets and with the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). All of the seal data sets showed evidence of cyclical behavior when demodulated at a period of 5 yr. The Weddell seals were generally in phase with the SOI since the Weddell series began in 1970. The leopard seals and SOI were in phase in the 1960’s, but thereafter the SOI series led the leopard seal series by about one quarter of a cycle. The crabeater series was more complicated, but similarities with the other data sets also were seen. If these tentative observations are confirmed, they point to large-scale oceanographic variation, possibly related to the El Niño - Southern Oscillation (ENSO), as an important mechanism in Antarctic marine ecosystems.

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