, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 195-209
Date: 26 Oct 2012

Population trends of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) with respect to remote sensing measures of chlorophyll-a in critical habitat

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The recovery plan for Steller sea lions (SSL; Eumetopias jubatus) suggests critical habitat should be enhanced to incorporate the spatio-temporal variation in dynamic oceanographic features that influence the prey and survival of SSL. It is necessary, therefore, to determine which features affect SSL. Demographics for sub-regions of the endangered, western stock of SSL were examined with respect to corresponding average, maximum, and variance of chlorophyll-a data (SeaWIFS), a proxy for primary productivity. Overall, SSL trends (2000–2008) and pup productivity (1999–2009) were related to maximum values of chl-a in critical habitat. Additionally, conditions in critical habitat appeared worse in areas of decline (i.e., dispersed patterns of chl-a hotspots and greater distances from SSL sites to productive areas). Although there may be a low feasibility of mitigating the effects of dynamic features on the recovery of SSL, the interactive effects of primary productivity and other stressors should be investigated for safeguarding their prey.

Communicated by U. Seibert.