Habitat Selection in California Sea Lions: Implications for Conservation

Habitat Selection in California Sea Lions: Implications for Conservation

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Although behavioral ecology and conservation biology are in urgent need of integration, few tools currently exist which can facilitate this merger. Effective integration of these two disciplines requires both new approaches to incorporate behavioral information into population viability models, and empirical efforts to gather more usable behavioral data. This study addressed these 2 research needs by examining links between breeding habitat selection and population persistence on California sea lions (Zalophus californianus californianus) in the Gulf of California. First, I present novel approaches to integrate behavioral information on habitat selection into 2 commonly used population models: a simple count-based and a more complex matrix model. Analyses of these models revealed that population dynamics and viability can be affected by considerations of behavioral information, and thus, highlight the importance of considering behavior when estimating risk of extinction. Second, I gathered behavioral information on California sea lions necessary to apply behaviorally-explicit models to this species. In particular, my work provides the first quantitative characterization of local habitat choice in this species, which revealed a preference for sites with larger size rocks, lighter color substrates, and convex shorelines. This information may be used to define suitable sea lion habitat and to predict sea lion movement among breeding sites. In addition, the first comprehensive analysis of genetic population subdivision was completed to explore movement patterns among colonies and regions and to help clarify the role of philopatry in sea lions. Results revealed a strong pattern of isolation by distance among colonies, with evidence of significant movement among most colonies. Identified movement patterns challenged current stock definitions for this species and previous assessments of viability based on these definitions. In light of this, an alternative classification for future assessment and management of California sea lion populations in Mexican waters was proposed. Overall, results from this study provide valuable new tools and necessary data that may help prioritize the use of limited conservation resources both globally and locally.After 1-2 hours of direct sun exposure we recorded surface temperature in the center of each rock using a handheld laser thermometer (Cen- TechAr, Harbor Freight Tools, Camarillo, California). All sampling procedures were approved by theanbsp;...

Title:Habitat Selection in California Sea Lions: Implications for Conservation
Author: Manuela Gonzalez Suarez
Publisher:ProQuest - 2008

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