NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEALS: A TALE OF IMMINENT EXTINCTION AND ASSISTED RECOVERY OVER 50 YEARS.
Sarah G. Allen; National Park Service; Point Reyes National Seashore, Point Reyes Station, CA, 94956; (510) 541-4241; sarah_allen@nps.gov; Mark Lowry, Richard Condit, Brian Hatfield, Ryan Berger, Patrick Robinson, Sarah Codde, Dawn Goley, Ben Becker , Ben Becker
Predictions of species extinction rates are alarming for the coming century and resource managers are challenged to plan for resistance and recovery of species, often applying untested methods. For marine animals over the past several decades, recovery and planning actions have been complex and often ineffective. Among marine mammals, though, northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) stand out for experiencing unparalleled recovery, enabled in part by simple protection. In California, recovery over the past 50 years, measured by estimated births, grew from 132 at one colony in 1958 to 40,684 over 11 primary colonies in 2010. Most colonies are on park coastal beaches that management diligently protects where seals breed and molt. Some colonies grew at astounding rates (average annual increase at Piedras Blancas Lambda=8.09 (1992-1995), while a few grew and then declined (Farallon Islands Lambda=1.8 (1973-1980) to 0.9 (1981-2010)), mostly due to loss of haul out space. Recovery has been disrupted by elevated pup mortality during ENSO events, which simultaneously stimulated colonization at new sites. Management is now challenged to facilitate future expansion where human interactions are increasing. The elephant seal tale of reappearance/recovery also provides insights into planning for the endurance of other species over the next century.
The Anthropocene: Recovery & Re-Wilding