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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps14131

Estimating Pacific walrus abundance and survival with multievent markÔÇôrecapture models

William S. Beatty,;*, Patrick R. Lemons, Jason P. Everett, Cara J. Lewis, Rebecca L. Taylor, Robert J. Lynn, Suresh A. Sethi, Lori Quakenbush, John J. Citta, Michelle L. Kissling, Natalia Kryukova, John K. Wenburg

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Arctic marine ecosystems are undergoing rapid physical and biological change associated with climate warming and loss of sea ice. Sea ice loss will impact many species through altered spatial and temporal availability of resources. In the Bering and Chukchi seas, the Pacific walrus Odobenus rosmarus divergens is one species that could be impacted by rapid environmental change, and thus, population assessments are needed to monitor changes in the status of this ecologically and culturally important marine mammal. We conducted a 5 yr genetic mark–recapture study to estimate demographic parameters for the Pacific walrus. We developed a Bayesian multievent mark–recapture model to estimate walrus survival and abundance while accounting for age misclassification. We estimated the probability of juvenile annual survival as 0.63 (95% credible interval [CrI]: 0.39–0.87) and adult female annual survival as 0.90 (95% CrI: 0.74–1.00). We estimated total abundance as 256434 with a 95% CrI of 171047–364659. We provide the first estimate of total Pacific walrus abundance since an aerial survey in 2006, which generated a substantially less precise total population size estimate (129000; 95% CI: 55000–507000). The emerging ecosystem state in the northern Being and Chukchi seas will likely result in a decline in Pacific walrus abundance, but there is substantial uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the anticipated decline. Our demographic estimates provide critical information to evaluate future population trends of this subsistence resource vital to communities that border the Bering and Chukchi seas in the United States and Russia.