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Key questions in marine mammal bioenergetics

McHuron, E.A., Adamczak, S., Arnould, J.P.Y., Ashe, E., Booth, C., Bowen, W.D., Christiansen, F., Chudzinska, M., Costa, D.P., Fahlman, A., Farmer, N.A., Fortune, S.M.E., Gallagher, C.A., Keen, K.A., Madsen, P.T., McMahon, C.R., Nabe-Nielsen, J., Noren, D.P., Noren, S.R., Pirotta, E., Rosen, D.A.S., Speakman, C.N., Villegas-Amtmann, S., Williams, R. and Cooke, S. (2022) Key questions in marine mammal bioenergetics. Conservation Physiology, 10 (1). A. coac055.

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Bioenergetic approaches are increasingly used to understand how marine mammal populations could be affected by a changing and disturbed aquatic environment. There remain considerable gaps in our knowledge of marine mammal bioenergetics, which hinder the application of bioenergetic studies to inform policy decisions. We conducted a priority-setting exercise to identify high-priority unanswered questions in marine mammal bioenergetics, with an emphasis on questions relevant to conservation and management. Electronic communication and a virtual workshop were used to solicit and collate potential research questions from the marine mammal bioenergetic community. From a final list of 39 questions, 11 were identified as ‘key’ questions because they received votes from at least 50% of survey participants. Key questions included those related to energy intake (prey landscapes, exposure to human activities) and expenditure (field metabolic rate, exposure to human activities, lactation, time-activity budgets), energy allocation priorities, metrics of body condition and relationships with survival and reproductive success and extrapolation of data from one species to another. Existing tools to address key questions include labelled water, animal-borne sensors, mark-resight data from long-term research programs, environmental DNA and unmanned vehicles. Further validation of existing approaches and development of new methodologies are needed to comprehensively address some key questions, particularly for cetaceans. The identification of these key questions can provide a guiding framework to set research priorities, which ultimately may yield more accurate information to inform policies and better conserve marine mammal populations.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
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