Long-term seasonal and interannual patterns of marine mammal strandings in subtropical western South Atlantic

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© 2016 Prado et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Understanding temporal patterns of marine mammal occurrence is useful for establishing conservation strategies. We used a 38 yr-long dataset spanning 1976 to 2013 to describe temporal patterns and trends in marine mammal strandings along a subtropical stretch of the east coast of South America. This region is influenced by a transitional zone between tropical and temperate waters and is considered an important fishing ground off Brazil. Generalized Additive Models were used to evaluate the temporal stranding patterns of the most frequently stranded species. Forty species were documented in 12,540 stranding events. Franciscana (n = 4,574), South American fur seal, (n = 3,419), South American sea lion (n = 2,049), bottlenose dolphins (n = 293) and subantarctic fur seal (n = 219) were the most frequently stranded marine mammals. The seasonality of strandings of franciscana and bottlenose dolphin coincided with periods of higher fishing effort and strandings of South American and subantarctic fur seals with post-reproductive dispersal. For South American sea lion the seasonality of strandings is associated with both fishing effort and post-reproductive dispersal. Some clear seasonal patterns were associated with occurrence of cold-(e.g. subantarctic fur seal) and warm-water (e.g. rough-toothed dolphin) species in winter and summer, respectively. Inter-annual increases in stranding rate were observed for franciscana and South American fur seal and these are likely related to increased fishing effort and population growth, respectively. For subantarctic fur seal the stranding rate showed a slight decline while for bottlenose dolphin it remained steady. No significant year to year variation in stranding rate was observed for South American sea lion. The slight decrease in frequency of temperate/polar marine mammals and the increased occurrence of subtropical/tropical species since the late 1990s might be associated with environmental changes linked to climate change. This long-term study indicates that temporal stranding patterns of marine mammals might be explained by either fishing-related or environmental factors.




Prado, J. H. F., Mattos, P. H., Silva, K. G., & Secchi, E. R. (2016). Long-term seasonal and interannual patterns of marine mammal strandings in subtropical western South Atlantic. PLoS ONE, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0146339

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