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Tytuł artykułu

Greenland whales and walruses in the Svalbard food web before and after exploitation

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Between 1600 and 1900 two numerous and ecologically important large marine mammals were extirpated in the Svalbard archipelago. These were the pelagic-feeding Greenland whale (Balaena mysticetus) and the benthic-feeding walrus (Odobaenus rosmarus rosmarus), the initial stocks of which prior to exploitation are estimated to have numbered approximately 46 000 and 25 000 animals respectively. Their annual food consumption at that time is estimated to have been some 4 million tons of plankton and 0.4 million tons of benthic organisms. Assuming that the primary and secondary production of the shelf/coastal ecosystem in the 16th century (before the peak of the Little Ice Age) was similar to that of the present day, the authors have concluded that a major shift in the food web must have occurred after the Greenland whales and walruses were eliminated. Planktonivorous seabirds and polar cod (Boreogadus saida) very probably took advantage of the extirpation of the Greenland whales, while eiders (Somateria mollissima) and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) benefited from the walrus's extinction. In turn, the increased amount of pelagic fish provided food for piscivorous alcids and gulls, and may have given rise to the huge present-day seabird colonies on Svalbard.









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