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Mapping world-wide distributions of marine mammal species using a relative environmental suitability (RES) model


Kaschner, K and Watson, RA and Trites, AW and Pauly, D, Mapping world-wide distributions of marine mammal species using a relative environmental suitability (RES) model, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 316 pp. 285-310. ISSN 0171-8630 (2006) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.3354/meps316285


The lack of comprehensive sighting data sets precludes the application of standard habitat suitability modeling approaches to predict distributions of the majority of marine mammal species on very large scales. As an alternative, we developed an ecological niche model to map global distributions of 115 cetacean and pinniped species living in the marine environment using more readily available expert knowledge about habitat usage. We started by assigning each species to broad-scale niche categories with respect to depth, sea-surface temperature, and ice edge association based on synopses of published information. Within a global information system framework and a global grid of 0.5° latitude/longitude cell dimensions, we then generated an index of the relative environmental suitability (RES) of each cell for a given species by relating known habitat usage to local environmental conditions. RES predictions closely matched published maximum ranges for most species, thus representing useful, more objective alternatives to existing sketched distributional outlines. In addition, raster-based predictions provided detailed information about heterogeneous patterns of potentially suitable habitat for species throughout their range. We tested RES model outputs for 11 species (northern fur seal, harbor porpoise, sperm whale, killer whale, hourglass dolphin, fin whale, humpback whale, blue whale, Antarctic minke, and dwarf minke whales) from a broad taxonomic and geographic range, using data from dedicated surveys. Observed encounter rates and species-specific predicted environmental suitability were significantly and positively correlated for all but 1 species. In comparison, encounter rates were correlated with <1 % of 1000 simulated random data sets for all but 2 species. Mapping of large-scale marine mammal distributions using this environmental envelope model is helpful for evaluating current assumptions and knowledge about species' occurrences, especially for data-poor species. Moreover, RES modeling can help to focus research efforts on smaller geographic scales and usefully supplement other, statistical, habitat suitability models. © Inter-Research 2006.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Distribution; GIS; Global; Habitat suitability modeling; Marine mammals; Niche model; Relative environmental suitability; cetacean; environmental modeling; habitat use; mapping; marine ecosystem; pinniped; population distribution; range expansion
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Fisheries sciences
Research Field:Aquaculture and fisheries stock assessment
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Fisheries - wild caught
Objective Field:Wild caught fin fish (excl. tuna)
UTAS Author:Watson, RA (Professor Reginald Watson)
ID Code:84055
Year Published:2006
Web of Science® Times Cited:164
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2013-04-16
Last Modified:2013-04-16

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