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Modeling Prey Isocapes in the North Atlantic for Advancement in Predator Ecology
Funder: European CommissionProject code: 894296 Call for proposal: H2020-MSCA-IF-2019
Funded under: H2020 | MSCA-IF-EF-RI Overall Budget: 214,159 EURFunder Contribution: 214,159 EUR

The immensity of the oceans makes it difficult to monitor them at a spatio-temporal scale that is relevant for resolving ecological processes and responses to decades of pressure from multiple anthropological stressors. With IsoMod, I aim to map the biogeochemical tracers (stable isotope (SI) composition) at the base of the food web to inform three key measures of marine ecosystem processes that might be affected by these stressors: productivity, food web structure and animal migration pathways. The isoscapes will be developed at the scale of the North Atlantic Ocean and will be based on Calanus spp. carbon and nitrogen SI values, δ13C and δ15N. Lipid rich zooplankton organisms such as C. finmarchicus fuel a large part of the higher trophic level in the North Atlantic, including many species of fish, birds and mammals. I will use a recently developed spatial statistic approach where high resolution observational data (e.g., satellite data) are applied as predictors of SI variability, and apply these models to produce isoscapes with a full coverage of the study area. The application of these isoscapes will be showcased in two case studies. The first will test the role of changes in Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) winter diet in key life-history parameters (e.g., body condition, survival rate). Specifically, the isoscapes will be used to provide the trophic baseline needed to investigate changes in puffin trophic position associated with changes in diet. The second case study will use prey SI to improve forecast of Northeast Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) summer distribution. Variation in SI values can be linked to variation in secondary productivity and this will be used to identify best foraging conditions for mackerel ahead of their migration to the summer feeding grounds. This information will be investigated as a driver of mackerel summer distribution and their recent shift in distribution.

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