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Body size shifts and early warning signals precede the historic collapse of whale stocks

Clements, CF, Blanchard, JL ORCID: 0000-0003-0532-4824, Nash, KL ORCID: 0000-0003-0976-3197, Hindell, MA ORCID: 0000-0002-7823-7185 and Ozgul, A 2017 , 'Body size shifts and early warning signals precede the historic collapse of whale stocks' , Nature Ecology and Evolution, vol. 1 , pp. 1-6 , doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0188.

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Abstract

Predicting population declines is a key challenge in the face of global environmental change. Abundance-based early warning signals have been shown to precede population collapses; however, such signals are sensitive to the low reliability of abundance estimates. Here, using historical data on whales harvested during the 20th century, we demonstrate that early warning signals can be present not only in the abundance data, but also in the more reliable body size data of wild populations. We show that during the period of commercial whaling, the mean body size of caught whales declined dramatically (by up to 4 m over a 70-year period), leading to early warning signals being detectable up to 40 years before the global collapse of whale stocks. Combining abundance and body size data can reduce the length of the time series required to predict collapse, and decrease the chances of false positive early warning signals.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Clements, CF and Blanchard, JL and Nash, KL and Hindell, MA and Ozgul, A
Keywords: body size, early warning indicators, whale, resilience, fisheries
Journal or Publication Title: Nature Ecology and Evolution
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
ISSN: 2397-334X
DOI / ID Number: 10.1038/s41559-017-0188
Copyright Information:

© 2017 Macmillan Publishers

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