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The Earth's climate is warming, especially in the mid- and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) breeds and haul-outs on islands and the mainland of Baja California, Mexico, and California, U.S.A. At the beginning of the 21st century, numbers of elephant seals in California are increasing, but the status of Baja California populations is unknown, and some data suggest they may be decreasing. We hypothesize that the elephant seal population of Baja California is experiencing a decline because the animals are not migrating as far south due to warming sea and air temperatures. Here we assessed population trends of the Baja California population, and climate change in the region. The numbers of northern elephant seals in Baja California colonies have been decreasing since the 1990s, and both the surface waters off Baja California and the local air temperatures have warmed during the last three decades. We propose that declining population sizes may be attributable to decreased migration towards the southern portions of the range in response to the observed temperature increases. Further research is needed to confirm our hypothesis; however, if true, it would imply that elephant seal colonies of Baja California and California are not demographically isolated which would pose challenges to environmental and management policies between Mexico and the United States.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: PloS one
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Correction: Five decades on: Use of historical weaning size data reveals that a decrease in maternal foraging success underpins the long-term decline in population of southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina).
[This corrects the article DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173427.].
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Any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). It may result from natural factors such as changes in the sun's intensity, natural processes within the climate system such as changes in ocean circulation, or human activities.
The pattern of any process, or the interrelationship of phenomena, which affects growth or change within a population.
Monitoring of rate of occurrence of specific conditions to assess the stability or change in health levels of a population. It is also the study of disease rates in a specific cohort, geographic area, population subgroup, etc. to estimate trends in larger population. (From Last, Dictionary of Epidemiology, 2d ed)
A type of climate characterized by insufficient moisture to support appreciable plant life. It is a climate of extreme aridity, usually of extreme heat, and of negligible rainfall. (From McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms, 4th ed)
The change in gene frequency in a population due to migration of gametes or individuals (ANIMAL MIGRATION) across population barriers. In contrast, in GENETIC DRIFT the cause of gene frequency changes are not a result of population or gamete movement.