Complex demographic heterogeneity from anthropogenic impacts in a coastal marine predator

Oro, DanielÁlvarez, DavidVelando, Alberto. Ecological Applications 28(3) : 612-621 (2018) DIGITAL CSIC

Environmental drivers, including anthropogenic impacts, affect vital rates of organisms. Nevertheless, the influence of these drivers may depend on the physical features of the habitat and how they affect life history strategies depending on individual covariates such as age and sex. Here, the long-term monitoring (1994–2014) of marked European Shags in eight colonies in two regions with different ecological features, such as foraging habitat, allowed us to test several biological hypotheses about how survival changes by age and sex in each region by means of multi-event capture–recapture modeling. Impacts included fishing practices and bycatch, invasive introduced carnivores and the severe Prestige oil spill. Adult survival was constant but, unexpectedly, it was different between sexes. This difference was opposite in each region. The impact of the oil spill on survival was important only for adults (especially for females) in one region and lasted a single year. Juvenile survival was time dependent but this variability was not synchronized between regions, suggesting a strong signal of regional environmental variability. Mortality due to bycatch was also different between sex, age and region. Interestingly the results showed that the size of the fishing fleet is not necessarily a good proxy for assessing the impact of bycatch mortality, which may be more dependent on the fishing grounds and the fishing gears employed in each season of the year. Anthropogenic impacts affected survival differently by age and sex, which was expected for a longlived organism with sexual size dimorphism. Strikingly, these differences varied depending on the region, indicating that habitat heterogeneity is demographically important to how environmental variability (including anthropogenic impacts) and resilience influence population dynamics.