Navigation Links
Study maps human impacts on top ocean predators along US west coast

The California Current System along the U.S. west coast is among the richest ecosystems in the world, driven by nutrient input from coastal upwelling and supporting a great diversity of marine life. Like coastal regions in general, it is also heavily impacted by human activities. A new study led by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, reveals areas along the west coast where human impacts are highest on marine predators such as whales, seals, seabirds, and turtles.

The study, published October 28 in Nature Communications, found that many of the high impact areas are within the boundaries of National Marine Sanctuaries. This means there are good opportunities for improving management strategies, according to first author Sara Maxwell, who led the study as a graduate student in ocean sciences at UC Santa Cruz and is now a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station.

"The sanctuaries are located close to the coast in areas where there are a lot of human activities and a lot of marine life, so it's not surprising that we see a lot of impacts there," Maxwell said, noting that oil spills were a big concern when the sanctuaries were established, and many do not limit activities such as fishing, although they are actively engaged in managing industries such as shipping.

"With the sanctuaries already in place, we have an opportunity to increase protections. The results of this study allow us to be more specific in where we focus management efforts so that we can minimize the economic impact on people," she said.

There are five National Marine Sanctuaries along the west coast, covering nearly 15,000 square miles. A proposed expansion of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries would extend protections north to Point Arena, a key area identified in the study.

Marine mammals and other predators are critical to the health of marine ecosystems. The study used tracking data for eight species of marine predators: blue whales, humpback whales, northern elephant seals, California sea lions, black-footed and Laysan albatrosses, sooty shearwaters, and leatherback sea turtles. These are among the 23 species whose movements have been tracked since 2000 as part of the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program. The eight species included in the new study are ecologically important but are not commercially exploited, Maxwell said.

The TOPP studies showed that many marine predators travel thousands of miles every year, yet often concentrate within small-scale "hotspots" to breed or feed on fish and other prey. Many such hotspots are found within the California Current System.

Maxwell and her coauthors combined the TOPP tracking data with a database of human impacts in the California Current System that was developed by a group led by coauthor Benjamin Halpern at UC Santa Barbara. The relative impact on each species was determined for each of 24 stressors associated with human activities, such as fishing, shipping, climate change, and pollution. The analysis yielded maps showing where the greatest impacts on each species are likely to be.

"Areas where key habitats and human impacts overlap represent important areas for conservation efforts," Maxwell said. "In other cases, areas of high human activities are not key habitats for predators. As a result, we can maximize both conservation of marine predators and human uses that our coastal communities depend on."

The study suggests that protecting key habitat without considering human uses may result in missed opportunities for sustainable resource use. "Having this detailed spatial information will help us move toward a more sustainable management approach," said coauthor Elliott Hazen, a research biologist at UCSC and the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Providing information to support management and policy decisions was one of the goals of the TOPP program, which was conceived by coauthors Dan Costa at UC Santa Cruz, Steven Bograd at NOAA, and Barbara Block at Stanford. TOPP researchers used sophisticated tags with satellite- or light-based geolocation capabilities to track the movements of top predators throughout the Pacific Ocean.

"A major component of the TOPP program was to identify important conservation areas of the North Pacific Ocean. This paper is a significant step forward in increasing our awareness of the 'blue Serengeti' that lies just off the west coast of the U.S.," Costa said.


Contact: Tim Stephens
University of California - Santa Cruz

Related biology news :

1. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
2. Law that regulates shark fishery is too liberal: UBC study
3. New study will help protect vulnerable birds from impacts of climate change
4. Study jointly led by UCSB researcher supports theory of extraterrestrial impact
5. BYU study: Using a gun in bear encounters doesnt make you safer
6. 15-year study: When it comes to creating wetlands, Mother Nature is in charge
7. Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract) shown to improve menopause symptoms in new study
8. Crystal structure of archael chromatin clarified in new study
9. EU-funded study underlines importance of Congo Basin for global climate and biodiversity
10. University of Houston study shows BP oil spill hurt marshes, but recovery possible
11. Study demonstrates cells can acquire new functions through transcriptional regulatory network
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Study maps human impacts on top ocean predators along US west coast
(Date:11/9/2015)... 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), the ... entry into the automotive market with a comprehensive and ... of consumer electronics human interface innovation. Synaptics, industry-leading touch ... the automotive industry and will be implemented in numerous ... , Japan , and ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015 Daon, a ... that it has released a new version of its ... in North America have already ... v4.0 also includes a FIDO UAF certified server ... already preparing to activate FIDO features. These customers include ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... In the present market scenario, security is ... industry verticals such as banking, healthcare, defense, electronic gadgets, ... for secure & simplified access control and growing rate ... of bank accounts, misuse of users, , and so ... laptops, and smartphones are expected to provide potential opportunities ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... RALEIGH, N.C. , Nov. 24, 2015  Clintrax Global, Inc., ... Raleigh, North Carolina , today announced that the company has ... earnings represented a 391% quarter on quarter growth posted for Q3 ... Kingdom and Mexico , with the ... place in December 2015. --> United Kingdom ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , November 24, 2015 SHPG ) announced ... in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference in ... 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> ... Financial Officer, will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th ... NY on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015  Twist Bioscience, a company ... Leproust, Ph.D., Twist Bioscience chief executive officer, will ... on December 1, 2015 at 3:10 p.m. Eastern ... City. --> --> ... Twist Bioscience is on Twitter. Sign up to ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... - ProMetic Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: PLI) (OTCQX: PFSCF) ("ProMetic" ... , President and Chief Executive Officer of ProMetic, will be ... th Annual Healthcare Conference to be held at the ... st , at 8.50am (ET) and ProMetic,s management team ... presentation will be available live via a webcast accessible at ...
Breaking Biology Technology: