• Changes in the spring sea ice concentration in the Bering Sea from 1972-2000 in relation to spotted seal (Phoca largha) pregnancy rates

      Picco, Candace M. (2005-08)
      Spotted seals are most dependent on the seasonal sea ice in the Bering Sea during the spring pupping and mating season. Changes in sea ice characteristics, as related to recent documented changes in climate, may have an effect on spotted seal reproduction. This study investigates the relation between changes in the spatial and temporal patterns of the spring sea ice concentration in the Bering Sea from 1972-2000 to changes in the pregnancy rates of the spotted seal (Phoca largha). Multinomial time-series regressions were used to determine the influence of different climatic variables on the sea ice concentration. Different statistical methods were used to compare the ice conditions of defined regions in the Bering Sea and spotted seal pregnancy rates among 20 years from 1964- 2003. The results showed no definitive patterns relating the monthly climatic variables and sea ice concentration averages; however, noticeable trends in sea ice were found. The variability of the seal pregnancy rates coincided with changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem and ice concentration. This study demonstrated that seal pregnancy rates and sea ice concentration varied temporally and spatially, the direct causality of these variations was uncertain.