Multi-decadal trends in biomarkers in harp seal teeth from the North Atlantic reveal the influence of prey availability on seal trophic position

Camille de la Vega*, Joanna Kershaw, Garry B Stenson, Anne Kirstine Frie, Martin Biuw, Tore Haug, Louisa Norman, Claire Mahaffey, Sophie Smout, Rachel M Jeffreys

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Arctic food webs are being impacted by borealisation and environmental change. To quantify the impact of these multiple forcings, it is crucial to accurately determine the temporal change in key ecosystem metrics, such as trophic position of top predators. Here, we measured stable nitrogen isotopes (δ15 N) in amino acids in harp seal teeth from across the North Atlantic spanning a period of 60 years to robustly assess multi-decadal trends in harp seal trophic position, accounting for changes in δ15 N at the base of the food web. We reveal long-term variations in trophic position of harp seals which are likely to reflect fluctuations in prey availability, specifically fish- or invertebrate-dominated diets. We show that the temporal trends in harp seal trophic position differ between the Northwest Atlantic, Greenland Sea and Barents Sea, suggesting divergent changes in each local ecosystem. Our results provide invaluable data for population dynamic and ecotoxicology studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5582-5595
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume29
Issue number19
Early online date21 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • Amino acids
  • Barents Sea
  • Greenland Sea
  • Harp seals
  • Labrador Sea
  • Multi-decadal trends
  • Stable nitrogen isotopes
  • Trophic position

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