Habitat-based models of cetacean density and distribution in the central North Pacific

TitleHabitat-based models of cetacean density and distribution in the central North Pacific
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsForney KA, Becker EA, Foley DG, Barlow J, Oleson E.M
JournalEndangered Species Research
Date Published2015/03
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1863-5407
Accession NumberWOS:000349996800001
Keywordsabundance; association patterns; beaked-whale; movements; ocean; population; sea-surface temperature; Site fidelity; spatial autocorrelation; uncertainty

The central North Pacific Ocean includes diverse temperate and tropical pelagic habitats. Studies of the abundance and distribution of cetaceans within these dynamic marine ecosystems have generally been patchy or conducted at coarse spatial and temporal scales, limiting their utility for pelagic conservation planning. Habitat-based density models provide a tool for identifying pelagic areas of importance to cetaceans, because model predictions are spatially explicit. In this study, we present habitat-based models of cetacean density that were developed and validated for the central North Pacific. Spatial predictions of cetacean densities and measures of uncertainty were derived based on data collected during 15 large-scale shipboard cetacean and ecosystem assessment surveys conducted from 1997 to 2012. We developed generalized additive models using static and remotely sensed dynamic habitat variables, including distance to land, sea-surface temperature (SST), standard deviation of SST, surface chlorophyll concentration, seasurface height (SSH), and SSH root-mean-square variation. The resulting models, developed using new grid-based prediction methods, provide finer scale information on the distribution and density of cetaceans than previously available. Habitat-based abundance estimates around Hawaii are similar to those derived from standard line-transect analyses of the same data and provide enhanced spatial resolution to inform management and conservation of pelagic cetacean species.

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