Seal carrion is a predictable resource for coastal ecosystems

Quaggiotto, M.-M. , Barton, P. S., Morris, C. D., Moss, S. E.W., Pomeroy, P. P., McCafferty, D. J. and Bailey, D. M. (2018) Seal carrion is a predictable resource for coastal ecosystems. Acta Oecologica, 88, pp. 41-51. (doi: 10.1016/j.actao.2018.02.010)

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The timing, magnitude, and spatial distribution of resource inputs can have large effects on dependent organisms. Few studies have examined the predictability of such resources and no standard ecological measure of predictability exists. We examined the potential predictability of carrion resources provided by one of the UK's largest grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) colonies, on the Isle of May, Scotland. We used aerial (11 years) and ground surveys (3 years) to quantify the variability in time, space, quantity (kg), and quality (MJ) of seal carrion during the seal pupping season. We then compared the potential predictability of seal carrion to other periodic changes in food availability in nature. An average of 6893 kg of carrion ∙yr−1 corresponding to 110.5 × 103 MJ yr−1 was released for potential scavengers as placentae and dead animals. A fifth of the total biomass from dead seals was consumed by the end of the pupping season, mostly by avian scavengers. The spatial distribution of carcasses was similar across years, and 28% of the area containing >10 carcasses ha−1 was shared among all years. Relative standard errors (RSE) in space, time, quantity, and quality of carrion were all below 34%. This is similar to other allochthonous-dependent ecosystems, such as those affected by migratory salmon, and indicates high predictability of seal carrion as a resource. Our study illustrates how to quantify predictability in carrion, which is of general relevance to ecosystems that are dependent on this resource. We also highlight the importance of carrion to marine coastal ecosystems, where it sustains avian scavengers thus affecting ecosystem structure and function.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McCafferty, Dr Dominic and Bailey, Dr David and Quaggiotto, Dr Martina
Authors: Quaggiotto, M.-M., Barton, P. S., Morris, C. D., Moss, S. E.W., Pomeroy, P. P., McCafferty, D. J., and Bailey, D. M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Acta Oecologica
ISSN (Online):1873-6238
Published Online:19 March 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Masson SAS
First Published:First published in Acta Oecologica 88:41-51
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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