MEPS 371:285-295 (2008)  -  DOI:

Cetacean biomass, prey consumption, and primary production requirements in the California Current ecosystem

J. Barlow1,2,*, M. Kahru2, B. G. Mitchell2

1NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 8604 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92038, USA

ABSTRACT: To better understand the role played by cetaceans as top-level predators in the California Current ecosystem, we estimate the fraction of annual net primary production (NPP) required to support the prey consumed by cetaceans, using a simple trophic transfer model. The biomass of cetacean species in the California Current is calculated as the product of their mean summer and fall abundance during 1991 to 2005 and estimates of mean mass ind.–1. Total prey consumption by cetaceans is estimated from a mass-specific consumption model. NPP is estimated from remote satellite measurements using the Behrenfeld-Falkowski vertically-generalized production model for each of 4 geographic regions. The total biomass of baleen whales exceeds the biomass of toothed whales by a factor of ~2.5; however, the estimated prey consumption by these taxa is nearly equal. Assuming 10% trophic transfer efficiency, cetaceans are estimated to require 32.2 g C m–2 yr–1 of primary production, or ~12% of the NPP in the study area, to sustain the prey that they directly consume. Because they feed at a lower trophic level, the primary production requirement (PPR) of baleen whales is ~13% of that of toothed whales, despite their 2.5-fold greater biomass. Uncertainty in trophic transfer efficiency results in the greatest uncertainty in estimating PPR for these upper trophic predators.

KEY WORDS: Cetaceans · Whales · Dolphins · Porpoises · California Current ecosystem · Biomass · Food web · Trophodynamics · Primary production · Trophic efficiency

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Cite this article as: Barlow J, Kahru M, Mitchell BG (2008) Cetacean biomass, prey consumption, and primary production requirements in the California Current ecosystem. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 371:285-295.

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