Title: Feeding habitat of fin whales in the western Mediterranean Sea: an environmental niche model
Citation: MARINE ECOLOGY-PROGRESS SERIES vol. 464 p. 289-306
Publication Year: 2012
JRC N°: JRC65351
ISSN: 0171-8630
URI: http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v464/p289-306/
DOI: 10.3354/meps09810
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: The distribution and migration patterns of the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) in the Mediterranean Sea are largely unknown. This species is mostly at risk of ship strike, it is therefore essential to develop synoptic tools to derive its habitat at large scale. We describe a foraging habitat model for fin whales in the western Mediterranean Sea relying on species ecology for the choice of predictors. The selected environmental variables are direct and resource predictors available at daily and large scales. The feeding habitat was mainly processed from the simultaneous occurrence of large oceanic fronts of satellite-derived sea surface chlorophyll content (CHL) and temperature (SST). A specific range of surface chlorophyll content (0.11-0.39 mg m-3) and a minimum water depth (93 m) were also identified to be important regional criteria. Daily maps were calibrated and evaluated against independent sets of geo-located fin whale presence data. The main predictor of feeding environment was specific CHL fronts, therefore the derived habitat is potential and functionally-linked. The model performs well with 80% of presence data closer than 8.8 km of the predicted potential habitat. The computed monthly, seasonal and annual maps of potential feeding habitat from 2000 to 2010 generally correlate with current knowledge on fin whale ecology. Overall, the size of potential habitat of fin whales is ca. 11% of the western Mediterranean Sea surface and seasonal recurrent areas were clearly shown. The results also displayed a strong seasonality in habitat size and locations as well as high year-to-year variations (40% to 50%), which is essential to assess migration patterns and suggest sound protection measures.
JRC Directorate:Space, Security and Migration

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