[MARMAM] New publication on North Atlantic right whale habitat modeling

Dan Pendleton dep22 at cornell.edu
Thu Aug 23 08:35:16 PDT 2012

Dear colleagues,

We would like to announce the publication our research titled: Weekly
predictions of North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis habitat
reveal influence of prey abundance and seasonality of habitat
preferences. The manuscript has been published with open access and
can be downloaded here:

ABSTRACT: Primary sources of mortality and serious injury to
endangered North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis are vessel
strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. All management plans depend
on knowing when and where right whales are likely to be present. We
tested the feasibility of a system designed to predict potential right
whale habitat on a weekly time scale. The system paired right whale
occurrence records with a collection of data layers including: results
from a coupled biological-physical model of Calanus finmarchicus (the
primary prey of right whales), satellite-derived sea surface
temperature and chlorophyll, and bathymetry. Using these data, we
trained seasonal habitat models and projected them onto environmental
data for each 8 d period from January to June, 2002 to 2006. Two
hypotheses were tested: (1) that right whale environmental preferences
change from season to season and (2) that modeled prey concentration
is an important predictor of the distribution of right whales. To test
H1, we trained, tested, and compared models for 3 time periods:
winter, spring, and winter and spring combined. To test H2, we trained
and tested models with and without C. finmarchicus. Predictions of
habitat suitability were highly dynamic within and across years. Our
results support the hypothesis that right whale environmental
preferences change between winter and spring. The inclusion of modeled
C. finmarchicus abundance improved the accuracy of habitat suitability


Dan Pendleton, PhD
Research Scientist
New England Aquarium
Boston, MA 02110 USA

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