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Predicting how climate change threatens the prey base of Arctic marine predators Florko, Katie; Tai, Travis; Cheung, William; Ferguson, Steve; Sumaila, U. Rashid; Yurkowski, David; Auger-Méthé, Marie

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Abstract

Arctic sea ice loss has direct consequences for predators. Climate-driven distribution shifts of native and invasive prey species may exacerbate these consequences. We assessed potential changes by modelling the prey base of a widely distributed Arctic predator (ringed seal; Pusa hispida) in a sentinel area for change (Hudson Bay) under high- and low-greenhouse gas emissions scenarios from 1950 to 2100. All changes were relatively negligible under the low-emission scenario, but under the high-emission scenario, we projected a 50% decline in the abundance of the well-distributed, ice-adapted, and energy-rich Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) and an increase in the abundance of smaller temperate-associated fish in southern and coastal areas. Further, our model predicted that all fish species declined in mean body size, but a 29% increase in total prey biomass. Declines in energy-rich prey and restrictions in their spatial range are likely to have cascading effects on Arctic predators.

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