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Marine Ecology Progress Series



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Environmental variation influences resource distribution, thereby affecting animal movement and foraging decisions. Climate change is altering environmental processes worldwide, but particularly in the Arctic, where changes in the phenology of sea ice have been redistributing resources across space and time. How polar marine predators such as ringed seals Pusa hispida hispida, whose ecology is tightly tied to sea ice, respond to different sea ice dynamics across large spatial scales is generally unknown. Here, behavioural states (resident and traveling) were estimated using state-space models on adult (n = 45) and subadult (n = 85) ringed seal satellite telemetry tracks from 6 Arctic locations. Tagged ringed seals spanned a wide latitudinal (56.54° to 75.58°N) and sea ice phenological range from short (1 to 2 mo) to longer (6 mo) ice-free periods. We assessed the influences of age class and several intra- and inter-annual environmental variables on ringed seal movement ecology. Both adults and subadults spent most of the ice-free season in a resident state (93 and 77%, respectively). A latitudinal gradient was characterised, where longer ice-free seasons and less inter-annual variability in sea ice phenology at lower latitudes were related to ringed seals spending more time in a resident state than their conspecifics at higher latitudes (90 versus 58%, respectively), where the ice-free season was shorter and sea ice phenology between years was less synchronous. Ringed seals are responding to latitudinal differences in sea ice phenology which affect prey distribution, suggesting plasticity in their foraging decisions and spatiotemporal differences in prey distribution across the rapidly changing Arctic.



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