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Santa Cruz, CA, United States

Kim S.L.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Tinker M.T.,Western Ecological Research Center | Estes J.A.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Koch P.L.,University of California at Santa Cruz

There is growing evidence for individuality in dietary preferences and foraging behaviors within populations of various species. This is especially important for apex predators, since they can potentially have wide dietary niches and a large impact on trophic dynamics within ecosystems. We evaluate the diet of an apex predator, the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), by measuring the stable carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of vertebral growth bands to create lifetime records for 15 individuals from California. Isotopic variations in white shark diets can reflect within-region differences among prey (most importantly related to trophic level), as well as differences in baseline values among the regions in which sharks forage, and both prey and habitat preferences may shift with age. The magnitude of isotopic variation among sharks in our study (>5‰ for both elements) is too great to be explained solely by geographic differences, and so must reflect differences in prey choice that may vary with sex, size, age and location. Ontogenetic patterns in δ15N values vary considerably among individuals, and one third of the population fit each of these descriptions: 1) δ15N values increased throughout life, 2) δ15N values increased to a plateau at ~5 years of age, and 3) δ15N values remained roughly constant values throughout life. Isotopic data for the population span more than one trophic level, and we offer a qualitative evaluation of diet using shark-specific collagen discrimination factors estimated from a 3+ year captive feeding experiment (Δ13Cshark-diet and Δ15Nshark-diet equal 4.2‰ and 2.5‰, respectively). We assess the degree of individuality with a proportional similarity index that distinguishes specialists and generalists. The isotopic variance is partitioned among differences between-individual (48%), within-individuals (40%), and by calendar year of sub-adulthood (12%). Our data reveal substantial ontogenetic and individual dietary variation within a white shark population. Source

van Wagtendonk J.W.,Western Ecological Research Center
Park Science

Historically, the only fire policy practiced by federal land management agencies was suppression, a policy that remained in place until the National Park Service officially recognized fire as a natural process in the late 1960s. The policy change allowed lightning fires ignited in specially designated management zones of some parks to run their course under prescribed conditions. The programs grew slowly as managers became comfortable with allowing fires to burn under controlled conditions, predominantly in wilderness areas. Events such as the Yellowstone fires in 1988 and the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000 resulted in reviews and updates of federal fire management policies that changed the Service's policies. Today, wilderness fire management is a vital component of the fire and fuels programs of many units of the National Park Service. Because of increasing budget and smoke management constraints, the future of restoring and maintaining fire-prone ecosystems will need to rely increasingly on the use of fire in wilderness. Source

Larson S.,Research Animal Health | Jameson R.,Western Ecological Research Center | Etnier M.,University of Washington | Jones T.,California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo | Hall R.,Oregon State University

All existing sea otter, Enhydra lutris, populations have suffered at least one historic population bottleneck stemming from the fur trade extirpations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We examined genetic variation, gene flow, and population structure at five microsatellite loci in samples from five pre-fur trade populations throughout the sea otter's historical range: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Russia. We then compared those values to genetic diversity and population structure found within five modern sea otter populations throughout their current range: California, Prince William Sound, Amchitka Island, Southeast Alaska and Washington. We found twice the genetic diversity in the pre-fur trade populations when compared to modern sea otters, a level of diversity that was similar to levels that are found in other mammal populations that have not experienced population bottlenecks. Even with the significant loss in genetic diversity modern sea otters have retained historical structure. There was greater gene flow before extirpation than that found among modern sea otter populations but the difference was not statistically significant. The most dramatic effect of pre fur trade population extirpation was the loss of genetic diversity. For long term conservation of these populations increasing gene flow and the maintenance of remnant genetic diversity should be encouraged. © 2012 Larson et al. Source

Buler J.J.,University of Delaware | Randall L.A.,National Wetlands Research Center | Fleskes J.P.,Western Ecological Research Center | Barrow W.C.,National Wetlands Research Center | And 3 more authors.

The current network of weather surveillance radars within the United States readily detects flying birds and has proven to be a useful remote-sensing tool for ornithological study. Radar reflectivity measures serve as an index to bird density and have been used to quantitatively map landbird distributions during migratory stopover by sampling birds aloft at the onset of nocturnal migratory flights. Our objective was to further develop and validate a similar approach for mapping wintering waterfowl distributions using weather surveillance radar observations at the onset of evening flights. We evaluated data from the Sacramento, CA radar (KDAX) during winters 1998-1999 and 1999-2000. We determined an optimal sampling time by evaluating the accuracy and precision of radar observations at different times during the onset of evening flight relative to observed diurnal distributions of radio-marked birds on the ground. The mean time of evening flight initiation occurred 23 min after sunset with the strongest correlations between reflectivity and waterfowl density on the ground occurring almost immediately after flight initiation. Radar measures became more spatially homogeneous as evening flight progressed because birds dispersed from their departure locations. Radars effectively detected birds to a mean maximum range of 83 km during the first 20 min of evening flight. Using a sun elevation angle of -5° (28 min after sunset) as our optimal sampling time, we validated our approach using KDAX data and additional data from the Beale Air Force Base, CA (KBBX) radar during winter 1998-1999. Bias-adjusted radar reflectivity of waterfowl aloft was positively related to the observed diurnal density of radio-marked waterfowl locations on the ground. Thus, weather radars provide accurate measures of relative wintering waterfowl density that can be used to comprehensively map their distributions over large spatial extents. Source

Mattsson B.J.,Western Ecological Research Center | Mattsson B.J.,University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna | Zipkin E.F.,Patuxent Wildlife Research Center | Gardner B.,North Carolina State University | And 4 more authors.

Understanding interactions between mobile species distributions and landcover characteristics remains an outstanding challenge in ecology. Multiple factors could explain species distributions including endogenous evolutionary traits leading to conspecific clustering and endogenous habitat features that support life history requirements. Birds are a useful taxon for examining hypotheses about the relative importance of these factors among species in a community. We developed a hierarchical Bayes approach to model the relationships between bird species occupancy and local landcover variables accounting for spatial autocorrelation, species similarities, and partial observability. We fit alternative occupancy models to detections of 90 bird species observed during repeat visits to 316 point-counts forming a 400-m grid throughout the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge in Maryland, USA. Models with landcover variables performed significantly better than our autologistic and null models, supporting the hypothesis that local landcover heterogeneity is important as an exogenous driver for species distributions. Conspecific clustering alone was a comparatively poor descriptor of local community composition, but there was evidence for spatial autocorrelation in all species. Considerable uncertainty remains whether landcover combined with spatial autocorrelation is most parsimonious for describing bird species distributions at a local scale. Spatial structuring may be weaker at intermediate scales within which dispersal is less frequent, information flows are localized, and landcover types become spatially diversified and therefore exhibit little aggregation. Examining such hypotheses across species assemblages contributes to our understanding of community-level associations with conspecifics and landscape composition. Source

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