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Conservation implications of forage base requirements of a marine predator population at carrying capacity

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Ruth Dunn
  • Darcy Bradley
  • Michael R Heithaus
  • Jennifer E Caselle
  • Yannis P Papastamatiou
Article number103646
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>21/01/2022
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date16/12/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Prey depletion may contribute to marine predator declines, yet the forage base required to sustain an unfished population of predatory fish at carrying capacity is unknown. We integrated demographic and physiological data within a Bayesian bioenergetic model to estimate annual consumption of a gray reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) population at a remote Pacific atoll (Palmyra Atoll) that are at carrying capacity. Furthermore, we estimated the proportion of the atoll's reef fish biomass production consumed by the gray reef sharks, assuming sharks either partially foraged pelagically (mean 7%), or solely within the reef environment (mean 52%). We then predicted the gray reef shark population potential of other, less remote Pacific Ocean coral reef islands, illustrating that current populations are substantially smaller than could be supported by their forage base. Our research highlights the utility of modeling how far predator population sizes are from their expected carrying capacity in informing marine conservation.