IMIS | Lifewatch regional portal

You are here


[ report an error in this record ] Print this page

Access data
Archived data
Availability: Creative Commons License This dataset is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Blue whales Balaenoptera musculus aggregate to feed in a regional upwelling system during November–May between the Great Australian Bight (GAB) and Bass Strait. We analyzed sightings from aerial surveys over 6 upwelling seasons (2001–02 to 2006–07) to assess within-season patterns of blue whale habitat selection, distribution, and relative abundance. Habitat variables were modelled using a general linear model (GLM) that ranked sea surface temperature (SST) and sea surface chlorophyll (SSC) of equal importance, followed by depth, distance to shore, SSC gradient, distance to shelf break, and SST gradient. Further discrimination by hierarchical partitioning indicated that SST accounted for 84.4% of variation in blue whale presence explained by the model, and that probability of sightings increased with increasing SST. more

The large study area was resolved into 3 zones showing diversity of habitat from the shallow narrow shelf and associated surface upwelling of the central zone, to the relatively deep upper slope waters, broad shelf and variable upwelling of the western zone, and the intermediate features of the eastern zone. Density kernel estimation showed a trend in distribution from the west during November–December, spreading south-eastward along the shelf throughout the central and eastern zones during January–April, with the central zone most consistently utilized. Encounter rates in central and eastern zones peaked in February, coinciding with peak upwelling intensity and primary productivity. Blue whales avoided inshore upwelling centers, selecting SST ~1°C cooler than remotely sensed ambient SST. Whales selected significantly higher SSC in the central and eastern zones than the western zone, where relative abundance was extremely variable. Most animals departed from the feeding ground by late April. Purpose: A primary objective of the present study was to use modelling (i.e., general linear model [GLM]) to assess the relative importance of a range of biophysical habitat variables in explaining whale distribution (see Redfern et al. 2006 for a review of cetacean habitat modelling). To do this we used blue whale sighting data from aerial surveys over 6 upwelling seasons, in combination with bathymetric, remote sensing, and temperature logger data. Another objective was to explain within-season patterns of distribution and relative abundance of foraging blue whales in this upwelling system using density kernel estimation and monthly variabililty in encounter rates. Furthermore, the present study presented an opportunity to assess whether the Bonney Upwelling surface plume, representing a shoaling of the thermocline rarely observed in blue whale feeding grounds elsewhere, provided insights into relationships between whales and upwelling in this region. Reference: Redfern, J.V., M.C. Ferguson, E.A. Becker, K.D. Hyrenbach et al. 2006. Techniques for cetacean-habitat modelling. Marine Ecological Progress Series 310:271–295.

Biology > Mammals
Marine/Coastal, AN, North Atlantic, Balaenoptera musculus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Geographical coverage
AN, North Atlantic [Marine Regions]

Temporal coverage
25 March 2007 - 28 September 2011

Taxonomic coverage
Balaenoptera musculus (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]

Animal sightings, Occurrence of biota

Blue Whale Study Inc, moredata creator
Deakin University, moredata creator
Duke University; Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences; Marine Laboratory, more, moredata creator
Skadia Pty Ltd, moredata creator
South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), moredata creator

Related datasets
Published in:
OBIS-SEAMAP: Spatial Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Populations, more

Based on this dataset
Gill, P.C. et al. (2011). Blue whale habitat selection and within-season distribution in a regional upwelling system off southern Australia. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 421: 243-263., more

Institute home page:

Dataset status: Completed
Data origin: Research: field survey
Metadatarecord created: 2015-02-23
Information last updated: 2015-02-23
All data in the Integrated Marine Information System (IMIS) is subject to the VLIZ privacy policy