[MARMAM] New publication on "Fine-scale spatial variability of acoustic environment corresponds with habitat utilization of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in Hong Kong waters"

Yuen Wa Ho hoyuenwa at cetacea-institute.org
Sat Jan 27 20:03:56 PST 2024

Dear MARMAM community,

On behalf of my co-authors, I am pleased to share with you our recent publication in Ecological Indicators.

Ho, Y.-W., Lin, T. H., Akamatsu, T., & Karczmarski, L. (2024). Fine-scale spatial variability of marine acoustic environment corresponds with habitat utilization of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in Hong Kong waters. Ecological Indicators, 158, 111228.

The full article is open access and available online at:



Acoustic properties of the underwater environment are important in maintaining biological processes of various marine organisms. However, with the increasing level of underwater noise in the global ocean, there is a growing need to better understand how marine animals use soundscape cues in their habitat selection. Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) inhabiting the Pearl River Estuary, southeast China, live in one of world’s most developed and noisiest coastal environment and are subjected to many sources of anthropogenic noise. To investigate whether spatial variability of underwater soundscape corresponds with their habitat utilization, we collected daytime underwater recordings in western Hong Kong waters from mid-2016 to mid-2018, and quantified the spatial pattern of marine acoustic environment and its differing characteristics in a fine spatial scale. We developed a framework of soundscape information retrieval to investigate spectral features that may facilitate identification of dolphins’ core habitats. Our findings reveal that a spectral feature, which peaks at 2 kHz, is a reliable predictor of humpback dolphin core habitat. Further modelling of spatial and seasonal variations of underwater soundscape demonstrates that the relative strength of this spectral feature is positively correlated with the sighting rates of humpback dolphins throughout the year. Although the source of the 2 kHz feature remains unknown, it is likely associated with humpback dolphins’ prey. We suggest that underwater acoustic environment represents an important component in evaluating the quality and suitability of coastal habitats for the daily needs of this threatened dolphin species. Local and regional conservation authorities should include habitat-specific baseline soundscape data when developing conservation management strategies.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Best regards,



Ho Yuen-Wa Derek

Postdoctoral Fellow

Cetacea Research Institute, Hong Kong <https://www.hku-cetacean-ecology.net/cri>

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