Like the vast African plains, two huge expanses of the North Pacific Ocean are major corridors of life, attracting an array of marine predators in predictable seasonal patterns, according to final results from the Census of Marine Life Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) project published today in the journal Nature.
The paper culminates the TOPP program's decade-long effort to track top marine predator movements in the Pacific Ocean. It presents for the first time the results for all 23 tagged species and reveals how migrations and habitat preferences overlap -- a remarkable picture of critical marine life pathways and habitats.
The study found that major hot spots for large marine predators are the California Current, which flows south along the US west coast, and a trans-oceanic migration highway called the North Pacific Transition Zone, which connects the western and eastern Pacific on the boundary between cold sub-arctic water and warmer subtropical water -- about halfway between Hawaii and Alaska.
"These are the oceanic areas where food is most abundant, and it's driven by high primary productivity at the base of the food chain -- these areas are the savanna grasslands of the sea," say co-authors and project originators Barbara Block of Stanford Universitys Hopkins Marine Station and Daniel Costa, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
"Knowing where and when species overlap is valuable information for efforts to manage and protect critical species and ecosystems."
Drs. Costa and Block were joined by Steven Bograd of the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Randy Kochevar of Stanford University and others to launch the project in 2000 as part of the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year research initiative that investigated the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in the global ocean. TOPP became the worlds largest-ever biologging study, eventually in
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Census of Marine Life