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Modeling spatiotemporal dynamics of krill aggregations: size, intensity, persistence, and coherence with seabirds

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Understanding aggregation dynamics of forage species is important for evaluating biophysical scaling in marine ecosystems and heterogeneity of trophic interactions. In particular, zooplankton aggregations are fundamental units of many pelagic systems, but are difficult to observe continuously through space and time. Using an established modeling framework that encompasses a coupled regional oceanographic and individual‐based modeling system, we test the hypothesis that persistence (duration) of krill aggregations is dependent on their size, intensity, and location of formation within the coastal upwelling region of the California Current. In support of this hypothesis, we found that aggregation size is positively related to intensity, whereas persistence has a parabolic response to aggregation size and intensity, indicating the likelihood that large and highly persistent aggregations are rare. Persistence of krill aggregations also depends on formation location within coastal upwelling areas. We found that krill aggregations were more likely to form near a major seabird colony and that some coastal upwelling areas act as sources of aggregations for other areas. Observations of seabird aggregations were used to evaluate the potential structural realism of predicted krill aggregations. Seabird aggregations displayed marked coherence with predicted krill aggregations in space, providing important criteria on the scaling and availability of krill aggregations to breeding and migratory species. Predicting scales of krill aggregation dynamics will benefit ecosystem assessments, and numerical modeling of predator foraging and marine spatial management aimed at ensuring protection of ecologically important areas.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2017

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