[MARMAM] New publication on predicting cetacean abundance and distribution

elizabeth.becker at noaa.gov elizabeth.becker at noaa.gov
Mon Dec 17 09:58:00 PST 2018

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the publication of the following paper in
Diversity & Distributions:

E.A. Becker, K.A. Forney, J.V. Redfern, J. Barlow, M.G. Jacox, J.J. Roberts,
D.M. Palacios.  Predicting cetacean abundance and distribution in a changing
climate. Diversity & Distributions, Biodiversity Research.  2018. DOI:

Abstract - Aim: Changes in abundance and shifts in distribution as a result
of a warming climate have been documented for many marine species, but
opportunities to test our ability to forecast such changes have been
limited. This study evaluates the ability of habitat-based density models to
accurately forecast cetacean abundance and distribution during a novel year
with unprecedented warm ocean temperatures caused by a sustained marine
heatwave.  Location: California Current Ecosystem, USA.  Methods: We
constructed generalized additive models based on cetacean sighting and
environmental data from 1991 to 2009 for eight species with a diverse range
of habitat associations. Models were built with three different sets of
predictor variables to compare performance. Models were then used to
forecast species abundance and distribution patterns during 2014, a year
with anomalously warm ocean temperatures. Cetacean sighting data collected
during 2014 were used to assess model forecasts.  Results: Ratios of
model-predicted abundance to observed abundance were close to 1:1 for all
but one species and accurately captured changes in the number of animals in
the study area during the anomalous year. Predicted distribution patterns
also showed good concordance with the 2014 survey observations. Our results
indicate that habitat relationships were captured sufficiently to predict
both changes in abundance and shifts in distribution when conditions warmed,
for both cool and warm temperate species.  Main conclusions: Models built
with multi-decadal datasets were able to forecast abundance and distribution
in a novel warm year for a diverse set of cetacean species. Models with the
best explanatory power did not necessarily have the best predictive power.
Also, they revealed species-specific responses to warming ocean waters.
Results have implications for modelling effects of climate change on
cetaceans and other marine predators.

The paper can be freely downloaded from:

 <https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12867> https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12867


Best regards,



Elizabeth A. Becker

Contractor, Marine Mammal & Turtle Division

Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, NOAA

8901 La Jolla Shores Drive 

La Jolla, CA, 92037, USA

Elizabeth.Becker at noaa.gov <mailto:Elizabeth.Becker at noaa.gov> 






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