Structure of marine predator and prey communities along environmental gradients in a glaciated fjord

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Abstract

Spatial patterns of marine predator communities are influenced to varying degrees by prey distribution and environmental gradients. We examined physical and biological attributes of an estuarine fjord with strong glacier influence to determine the factors that most influence the structure of predator and prey communities. Our results suggest that some species, such as walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), and glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens), were widely distributed across environmental gradients, indicating less specialization, whereas species such as capelin (Mallotus villosus), harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), and Kittlitz's murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) appeared to have more specialized habitat requirements related to glacial influence. We found that upper trophic level communities were well correlated with their mid trophic level prey community, but strong physical gradients in photic depth, temperature, and nutrients played an important role in community structure as well. Mid-trophic level forage fish communities were correlated with the physical gradients more closely than upper trophic levels were, and they showed strong affinity to tidewater glaciers. Silica was closely correlated with the distribution of fish communities, the mechanisms of which deserve further study.

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Renner, M., Arimitsu, M. L., & Piatt, J. F. (2012). Structure of marine predator and prey communities along environmental gradients in a glaciated fjord. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 69(12), 2029–2045. https://doi.org/10.1139/f2012-117

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