[MARMAM] New publication: Modelling the Effects of Environmental Conditions on the Acoustic Occurrence and Behaviour of Antarctic Blue Whales

Fannie Shabangu fannie.shabangu at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 23 01:20:51 PST 2017

Dear Colleagues, On behalf of my co-authors, I am happy to announce the publication of the following paper: Shabangu FW, Yemane D,Stafford KM, Ensor P, Findlay KP (2017) Modelling the effects of environmentalconditions on the acoustic occurrence and behaviour of Antarctic blue whales. PLoSONE 12(2): e0172705. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172705 Abstract: Harvested to perilously low numbers by commercial whaling during thepast century, the large scale response of Antarctic blue whales Balaenopteramusculus intermedia to environmental variability is poorly understood. Thisstudy uses acoustic data collected from 586 sonobuoys deployed in the australsummers of 1997 through 2009, south of 38ÊS, coupled with visual observationsof blue whales during the IWC SOWER line-transect surveys. The characteristicZ-call and D-call of Antarctic blue whales were detected using an automated detectiontemplate and visual verification method. Using a random forest model, we showedthe environmental preferences pattern, spatial occurrence and acousticbehaviour of Antarctic blue whales. Distance to the southern boundary of theAntarctic Circumpolar Current (SBACC), latitude and distance from the nearestAntarctic shores were the main geographic predictors of blue whale calloccurrence. Satellite-derived sea surface height, sea surface temperature, andproductivity (chlorophyll-a) were the most important environmental predictors ofblue whale call occurrence. Call rates of D-calls were strongly predicted bythe location of the SBACC, latitude and visually detected number of whales inan area while call rates of Z-call were predicted by the SBACC, latitude and longitude.Satellite-derived sea surface height, wind stress, wind direction, water depth,sea surface temperatures, chlorophyll-a and wind speed were importantenvironmental predictors of blue whale call rates in the Southern Ocean. Bluewhale call occurrence and call rates varied significantly in response tointer-annual and long term variability of those environmental predictors. Our resultsidentify the response of Antarctic blue whales to inter-annual variability inenvironmental conditions and highlighted potential suitable habitats for thispopulation. Such emerging knowledge about the acoustic behaviour, environmentaland habitat preferences of Antarctic blue whales is important in improving themanagement and conservation of this highly depleted species. The paper can be downloaded at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0172705 BestregardsFannie FannieShabanguPhDCandidateMammalResearch Institute Whale UnitUniversityof Pretoriac/o 16 Ebor RoadWynberg,7800South AfricaTel: +27 21 402 3553E-mail: fannie.shabangu at yahoo.com
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