Top predators in relation to bathymetry, ice, and krill during austral winter in Marguerite Bay, Antarctica
Dr. Christine A. Ribic, USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Dept. Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
Erik W. Chapman, Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
Dr. William R. Fraser, Polar Oceans Research Group, Sheridan, MT
Gareth Lawson, MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography, Woods Hole, MA
Dr. Peter Wiebe, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA
A key hypothesis guiding the U.S. Southern Ocean Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (U.S. SO GLOBEC) program is that deep across-shelf troughs facilitate the transport of warm and nutrient-rich waters onto the continental shelf of the Western Antarctic Peninsula, resulting in enhanced winter production and prey availability to top predators. We tested aspects of this hypothesis during austral winter by assessing the distribution of the resident pack-ice top predators in relation to these deep across-shelf troughs and by investigating associations between top predators and their prey. Surveys were conducted July-August 2001 and August-September 2002 in Marguerite Bay, Antarctica, with a focus on the main across-shelf trough in the bay, Marguerite Trough. The common pack-ice seabird species were snow petrel (Pagodroma nivea, 1.2 individuals km-2), Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica, 0.3 individuals km-2), and Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae, 0.5 individuals km-2). The most common pack-ice pinniped was crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus). During both winters, snow and Antarctic petrels were associated with low sea ice concentrations independent of Marguerite Trough, while Adélie penguins occurred in association with this trough. Krill concentrations, both shallow and deep, were also associated with Adélie penguin and snow petrel distributions. During both winters, crabeater seal occurrence was associated with deep krill concentrations and with regions of lower chlorophyll concentration. The area of lower chlorophyll concentrations occurred in an area with complex bathymetry close to land and heavy ice concentrations. Complex or unusual bathymetry via its influence on physical and biological processes appears to be one of the keys to understanding how top predators survive during the winter in this Antarctic region.