The role of marine mammals in the Barents Sea foodweb
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionICES Journal of Marine Science. 2019, . 10.1093/icesjms/fsz136
Marine mammals are important players in the Barents Sea ecosystem but their structural role in the foodweb has been little explored. We compare foodweb-related characteristics within and between phylogenetic groups for 19 marine mammals. As a group, they directly connect to the most central species (i.e cod and haddock) in the Barents Sea (i.e. cod and haddock) and consume over half of the available species. Pinnipeds are the most homogenous phylogenetic group with high omnivory and high prey richness. Mysticetes are split between well-connected species with high omnivory like the humpback whale, and peripheral specialists like the blue whale. Based on foodweb-derived indices some species consistently cluster together forming two groups, suggesting topological redundancy within them. One is dominated by Arctic seals and the other includes most of the baleen whales. Marine mammals generally contribute to network modularity as their trophic links are mainly within their own module. However, Atlantic species such as the grey seal act as a module connector decreasing modularity. This might negatively affect ecosystem robustness with perturbation effects spreading further and quicker in the foodweb. In the Arctic reaches of the Barents Sea, climate warming is likely to bring about extensive changes in the foodweb structure through a redistribution of species.