- 1Changes in species’ abundance and distributions caused by human disturbances can have indirect effects on other species in a community. Although ecosystem approaches to management are becoming increasingly prevalent, they require a fuller understanding of how individual behaviour determines interactions within and between species.
- 2Ecological interactions involving krill are of major importance to many species within the Antarctic. Despite extensive knowledge of the ecosystem that they occupy, there is still incomplete understanding of the links between species and the effect of environmental conditions on these interactions. In this study, we extended a behavioural model used previously to understand the interactions between penguins and krill to determine the indirect effect of krill fisheries on penguin foraging success and behaviour in adjacent breeding sites.
- 3Increased fishing pressure offshore is predicted to reduce penguin food intake. Given the documented links between krill and penguins, this also leads to a prediction of decreased penguin survival and reproduction. Krill behaviour is predicted to cause stronger effects of krill fisheries than explained solely by the percentage of biomass removed. Environmental conditions that decrease krill growth rates or cause krill to spend time in deeper water are also predicted to increase the magnitude of the effect of fishing on penguin success. We show that changes in penguin foraging behaviour can be used to assess the impact of local fisheries on penguin reproductive success.
- 4Synthesis and applications. These results demonstrate that an understanding of predator–prey interactions, indirect effects between species, and individual behaviour is imperative to our ability to manage populations. We describe a general method to use what is known about ecological and evolutionary processes with species-specific information to predict the response of organisms to novel situations. We further show how individual behaviour can be used to assess the impact of human disturbance on ecosystems.