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Climate causes shifts in grey seal phenology by modifying age structure

James Bull Orcid Logo, Owen R. Jones, Luca Borger Orcid Logo, Novella Franconi Orcid Logo, Roma Banga, Kate Lock, Thomas B. Stringell

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Volume: 288, Issue: 1964, Start page: 20212284

Swansea University Authors: James Bull Orcid Logo, Luca Borger Orcid Logo, Novella Franconi Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1098/rspb.2021.2284

Abstract

There are numerous examples of phenological shifts that are recognized both as indicators of climate change and drivers of ecosystem change. A pressing challenge is to understand the causal mechanisms by which climate affects phenology. We combined annual population census data and individual longit...

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Published in: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
ISSN: 0962-8452 1471-2954
Published: The Royal Society 2021
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa58898
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Abstract: There are numerous examples of phenological shifts that are recognized both as indicators of climate change and drivers of ecosystem change. A pressing challenge is to understand the causal mechanisms by which climate affects phenology. We combined annual population census data and individual longitudinal data (1992–2018) on grey seals, Halicheorus grypus, to quantify the relationship between pupping season phenology and sea surface temperature. A temperature increase of 2°C was associated with a pupping season advance of approximately seven days at the population level. However, we found that maternal age, rather than sea temperature, accounted for changes in pupping date by individuals. Warmer years were associated with an older average age of mothers, allowing us to explain phenological observations in terms of a changing population age structure. Finally, we developed a matrix population model to test whether our observations were consistent with changes to the stable age distribution. This could not fully account for observed phenological shift, strongly suggesting transient modification of population age structure, for example owing to immigration. We demonstrate a novel mechanism for phenological shifts under climate change in long-lived, age- or stage-structured species with broad implications for dynamics and resilience, as well as population management.
Item Description: Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5713077.
Keywords: age structure, climate change, grey seal, phenology, population dynamics, sea surface temperature
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Funders: Natural Resources Wales or its predecessor organization Countryside Council for Wales
Issue: 1964
Start Page: 20212284