Conservation Oceanography of the North Atlantic Right Whale
- Director, Ocean Resources and Ecosystems Program, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered cetacean species. Population and ecosystem monitoring studies reveal that the right whale’s reproductive rate is correlated with Calanus finmarchicus abundance in the Gulf of Maine, which, in turn, responds to ecosystem regime shifts associated with decadal-scale climate forcing from the Arctic.
Current conservation efforts are aimed at reducing right whale mortality rates associated with ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. However, modeling results demonstrate that decadal-scale variability in the population’s recovery is driven primarily by prey-dependent birth rates, not mortality rates. Furthermore, projections from a full demographic model show that the population should recover in the future as long as prey availability and mortality rates remain within the ranges observed during the previous three decades.
The recent unusual mortality event observed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this past summer is discussed in the context of our results and the historically unprecedented heat wave observed in the Gulf of Maine during recent years. Our research highlights the importance of understanding the oceanographic context for interpreting population changes when evaluating the conservation management plans for endangered species.
This seminar is co-sponsored by the Hugh Hanson Ecology Seminar Series, School of Life Sciences and the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes.
3:00 - 4:00 p.m.