Journal Article

An altered carrying capacity of the Benguela upwelling ecosystem for African penguins (<i>Spheniscus demersus</i>)

Robert J. M. Crawford, Les G. Underhill, Leshia Upfold and Bruce M. Dyer

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 64, issue 3, pages 570-576
Published in print April 2007 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online March 2007 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsm009
An altered carrying capacity of the Benguela upwelling ecosystem for African penguins (Spheniscus demersus)

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Crawford, R. J. M., Underhill, L. G., Upfold, L., and Dyer, B. M. 2007. An altered carrying capacity of the Benguela upwelling ecosystem for African penguins (Spheniscus demersus). – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 64: 570–576.

The carrying capacity of an ecosystem for a species is an input parameter that is required for some models that assess population viability. It may be changed by an altered structure or functioning of the ecosystem, e.g. as a consequence of changes brought about by fishing or environmental change. Hence, it cannot necessarily be assumed that the pristine level of abundance of a species reflects the present-day carrying capacity of the ecosystem for that species. Historical and modern information on abundance and density-dependent responses is used to investigate changes in the carrying capacity of the Benguela upwelling ecosystem for African penguins (Spheniscus demersus), a species categorized as vulnerable. The carrying capacity was estimated to decrease from 1.5–3.0 million adult birds in the 1920s to just 10–20% of this value from 1978 to 2006, as a result inter alia of increased competition for food with purse-seine fisheries and fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus). From 1988/1989 to 2005/2006, the per capita recruitment of young penguins to a colony where nesting space was not limiting was inversely related to the size of that colony, suggestive of a density-dependent response perhaps related to food availability.

Keywords: African penguin; Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus; Cape fur seal; carrying capacity; density-dependence; fishing; food; recruitment; Spheniscus demersus

Journal Article.  4921 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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