[MARMAM] Paper on southern right whale offshore habitat use patterns, climate change and ship traffic

Leigh Torres torr3 at yahoo.com
Wed May 8 15:05:41 PDT 2013

Dear friends and colleagues,

I would like to inform you of a recent publication in the journal Diversity
and Distributions by myself and colleagues regarding southern right whale
habitat use patterns in the Australasian region and their potential threats
from climate change and ship traffic. Our study uses historical whaling data
from the 1800s in a boosted regression tree modelling framework to generate the
first quantitative description of the offshore foraging habitat of southern
right whale. The abstract is pasted below.

You can download the article here:

Or email me directly for a copy:
l.torres at niwa.co.nz

Thanks for your interest.

Dr. Leigh G. Torres
Spatial Marine Ecologist
301 Evans Bay Parade
Private Bag 14901
Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 4 382 1628
Mob: +64 27 123 4567
l.torres at niwa.co.nz
From exploitation to conservation: Habitat models
using whaling data predict distribution patterns and threat exposure of an
endangered whale 
Aim: Sufficient data to describe spatial distributions of
rare and threatened populations are typically difficult to obtain. For example,
there are minimal modern offshore sightings of the endangered southern right
whale, limiting our knowledge of foraging grounds and habitat use
patterns.  Using historical exploitation data of southern right whales, we
aim to better understand their seasonal offshore distribution patterns in
relation to broad-scale oceanography, and to predict their exposure to shipping
traffic and response to global climate change.  
Location: Australasian region between 130°W and 100°E, and
30°S and 55°S. 
Methods: We model 19th century whaling data with boosted
regression trees to determine functional responses of whale distribution
relative to environmental factors. Habitat suitability maps are generated and
we validate these predictions with independent historical and recent sightings.
We identify areas of increased risk of ship-strike by integrating predicted
whale distribution maps with shipping traffic patterns. We implement predicted
ocean temperatures for the 2090-2100 decade in our models to predict changes in
whale distribution due to climate change.
Results: Temperature in the upper 200 m, distance from the
subtropical front, mixed layer depth, chlorophyll concentration and distance
from ridges are the most consistent and influential predictors of whale
distribution. Validation tests of predicted distributions determined generally
high predictive capacity. We identify two areas of increased risk of vessel
strikes and predict substantial shifts in habitat suitability and availability
due to climate change.
Main conclusions: Our results represent the first
quantitative description of the offshore foraging habitat of southern right
whales. Conservation applications include identifying areas and causes of
threats to southern right whales, generating effective mitigation strategies,
and directing population monitoring and research efforts. Our study
demonstrates the benefits of incorporating unconventional datasets such as
historic exploitation data into species distribution models to inform
management and help combat biodiversity loss.
Boosted regression trees, distribution patterns, global
climate change, habitat use, historic data, rare species, species distribution
models, southern right whale
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