[MARMAM] New paper on habitat preferences of southern right whales

Will Rayment will.rayment at otago.ac.nz
Wed Feb 18 12:44:27 PST 2015

Dear all
We are happy to announce that the following paper is now published in 
Journal of Biogeography.

Breeding status affects fine-scale habitat selection of southern right 
whales on their wintering grounds.
William Rayment, Steve Dawson and Trudi Webster.
Journal of Biogeography 42: 463-474.

For a PDF please email will.rayment at otago.ac.nz


*Aim *To develop and validate a model for fine-scale distribution of 
southern right whales (/Eubalaena australis/) on their calving grounds, 
accounting for breeding status.

*Location *Port Ross, a harbour at the northern end of the sub-Antarctic 
Auckland Islands, approximately 450 km south of mainland New Zealand.

*Methods *Species–habitat surveys were conducted during annual winter 
expeditions to the Auckland Islands from 2010 to 2012. Presence 
locations for groups including calves (calf groups; /n/ = 462) and not 
including calves (non-calf groups; /n/ = 313) were recorded during 
small-boat surveys of Port Ross, and an equal number of pseudo-absence 
locations were generated in a GIS analysis. Explanatory variables tested 
were water depth, seabed slope, distance to coast, distance to shelter 
from prevailing wind and average wave exposure (estimated from a 
custom-built wave model). The occurrence of calf groups and non-calf 
groups was separately related to explanatory variables using binomial 
generalized additive models, with best models chosen via the minimum 
Akaike information criterion score. Multi-fold validation was conducted 
to assess model performance and temporal variation in distribution.

*Results *The best models for calf groups were consistent, always 
including wave exposure, distance to shelter, depth and distance to the 
coastline. In contrast, the best non-calf group models were more 
variable and explained only a small proportion of the variation in the 
data. Validation metrics indicated that the calf group models were 
useful predictors of distribution in Port Ross during winter, and that 
the calf group models performed better than the non-calf models using 
the same suite of environmental variables.

*Main conclusions *Breeding female southern right whales seek sheltered, 
nearshore waters during the early life-stages of their calves and are 
more selective of these habitats than non-calving whales. The results 
highlight the importance of sheltered habitat for taxa with vulnerable 
life-history stages, and the need to account for reproductive status to 
refine species–habitat models.

Will Rayment, PhD
Marine Science Department
Te Tari Putaiao Taimoana
University of Otago
PO Box 56
New Zealand

phone: +64 3 4798304 (w)  +64 21 488961 (mob.)

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