Megafaunal Impacts on Structure and Function of Ocean Ecosystems

Posted: 27 Oct 2016

See all articles by James Estes

James Estes

University of California, Santa Cruz - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Michael Heithaus

Florida International University (FIU) - School of Environment, Arts, and Society

Douglas J. McCauley

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology

Douglas B. Rasher

University of Maine, Walpole - School of Marine Sciences and Darling Marine Center

Boris Worm

Dalhousie University - Department of Biology

Date Written: October 2016

Abstract

Here, we identify the extant species of marine megafauna (>45 kg maximum reported mass), provide a conceptual template for the ways in which these species influence the structure and function of ocean ecosystems, and review the published evidence for such influences. Ecological influences of more than 90% of the 338 known species of extant ocean megafauna are unstudied and thus unknown. The most widely known effect of those few species that have been studied is direct prey limitation, which occurs through consumption and risk avoidance behavior. Consumer-prey interactions result in indirect effects that extend through marine ecosystems to other species and ecological processes. Marine megafauna transport energy, nutrients, and other materials vertically and horizontally through the oceans, often over long distances. The functional relationships between these various ecological impacts and megafauna population densities, in the few well-studied cases, are characterized by phase shifts and hysteresis.

Suggested Citation

Estes, James and Heithaus, Michael and McCauley, Douglas J. and Rasher, Douglas B. and Worm, Boris, Megafaunal Impacts on Structure and Function of Ocean Ecosystems (October 2016). Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 41, pp. 83-116, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2859447 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-110615-085622

James Estes (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Cruz - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology ( email )

Santa Cruz, CA 95060
United States

Michael Heithaus

Florida International University (FIU) - School of Environment, Arts, and Society ( email )

North Miami, FL 33181
United States

Douglas J. McCauley

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

Douglas B. Rasher

University of Maine, Walpole - School of Marine Sciences and Darling Marine Center ( email )

193 Clarks Cove Rd
Walpole, ME 04573
United States

Boris Worm

Dalhousie University - Department of Biology ( email )

Canada
1-902-494-2478 (Phone)
1-902-494-3736 (Fax)

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