Modeling year-round marine mammal habitat preferences in the Southern Ocean based on passive acoustic observations

Ilse.van.Opzeeland [ at ]


An understanding of marine mammal distribution patterns forms the basis of the design and implementation of effective management measures. Habitat modeling offers a valuable approach to combine information on species presence (or absence) with local environmental parameters to explore species-specific habitat affinities. Most habitat modeling approaches require marine mammal presence-absence data which can only be obtained during dedicated visual surveys. However, in the Southern Ocean, the collection of visual data is complicated by the region’s remoteness, limited seasonal accessibility and the dependency on favorable light and weather conditions to conduct visual observations. Passive acoustic monitoring, by contrast, is highly suitable for long-term monitoring of marine mammals as they use sound in many behavioural contexts and species can be readily identified by their acoustic signatures. Passive acoustic data provide accurate information on temporal patterns in acoustic presence and time spent in the vicinity of the recorders. Furthermore, knowledge on the behavioral context in which specific sound types are produced can be used to derive information on habitat usage. Here we describe an approach for combining multi-year, year-round marine mammal presence data from passive acoustic recorders with a selected set of relevant environmental parameters to develop species-specific habitat models. Our project comprises multi-year passive acoustic data collected in Antarctic coastal as well as offshore areas throughout the Weddell Sea. Some of the species recorded are sighted only rarely during visual surveys, but are acoustically abundant in our recordings, such as the Antarctic blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia), humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin whale (B. physalus), leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophaga) and Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii). The model will incorporate both static environmental variables, such as depth or slope, and dynamic variables, such as sea surface temperature, sea surface height, sea ice concentration and their derivatives. The project aims at furthering our current understanding of marine mammal habitat affinities in the Southern Ocean by constructing species-specific habitat models at yet unprecedented spatial and temporal time scales.

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Conference (Talk)
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25. Internationale Polartagung "Polargebiete im Wandel", 17 Mar 2013 - 22 Mar 2013, Hamburg.
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van Opzeeland, I. and Bombosch, A. (2013): Modeling year-round marine mammal habitat preferences in the Southern Ocean based on passive acoustic observations , 25. Internationale Polartagung "Polargebiete im Wandel", Hamburg, 17 March 2013 - 22 March 2013 .

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