[MARMAM] Habitat-based cetacean density models for the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico

Jason Roberts jason.roberts at duke.edu
Thu Mar 3 15:14:48 PST 2016

My collaborators and I are pleased to announce the publication of a new set of cetacean density models for the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This project integrated nearly 1.1 million linear km of line transect surveys collected since 1992, with the objective of developing the most comprehensive and detailed maps possible for these regions. The paper and all results are open access, freely downloadable, and reusable under a CC-BY 4.0 License.


Jason J. Roberts, Benjamin D. Best, Laura Mannocci, Ei Fujioka, Patrick N. Halpin, Debra L. Palka, Lance P. Garrison, Keith D. Mullin, Timothy V. N. Cole, Christin B. Khan, William A. McLellan, D. Ann Pabst & Gwen G. Lockhart

Abstract: Cetaceans are protected worldwide but vulnerable to incidental harm from an expanding array of human activities at sea. Managing potential hazards to these highly-mobile populations increasingly requires a detailed understanding of their seasonal distributions and habitats. Pursuant to the urgent need for this knowledge for the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, we integrated 23 years of aerial and shipboard cetacean surveys, linked them to environmental covariates obtained from remote sensing and ocean models, and built habitat-based density models for 26 species and 3 multi-species guilds using distance sampling methodology. In the Atlantic, for 11 well-known species, model predictions resembled seasonal movement patterns previously suggested in the literature. For these we produced monthly mean density maps. For lesser-known taxa, and in the Gulf of Mexico, where seasonal movements were less well described, we produced year-round mean density maps. The results revealed high regional differences in small delphinoid densities, confirmed the importance of the continental slope to large delphinoids and of canyons and seamounts to beaked and sperm whales, and quantified seasonal shifts in the densities of migratory baleen whales. The density maps, freely available online, are the first for these regions to be published in the peer-reviewed literature.

This project builds upon the efforts of the hundreds of people involved in conducting line transect surveys in these regions over the past two decades. Thanks for the opportunity to analyze the data you helped collect. I hope you will find this project a worthy outcome of your efforts.

All the best,


Jason Roberts
jason.roberts at duke.edu<mailto:jason.roberts at duke.edu>
Duke Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab
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