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Distribution and habitat modelling for cetacean species in the eastern north Atlantic Ocean
Tomás Correia, A.M. (2020). Distribution and habitat modelling for cetacean species in the eastern north Atlantic Ocean. PhD Thesis. Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto (FCUP): Porto. 231 + suppl. pp.

Thesis info:

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Document type: Dissertation

Author keywords
    cetaceans; ecological niche modelling

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  • Tomás Correia, A.M.

    Cetacean species assume very important roles for the conservation of marine ecosystems as keystone, umbrella, biodiversity indicators, sentinel and flagship species. However, conservation of cetaceans is hindered by the lack of information on their occurrence and distribution patterns. The most important knowledge gaps are in high-seas where research effort is limited given the complex and expensive logistics of offshore surveys. To overcome this challenge, reseachers have been relying on observation platforms of opportunity (OPOs) to collect data in more remote, less accessible areas.In the eastern North Atlantic (ENA), a great diversity of cetacean species has been recorded but occurrence records are mostly restricted to coastal areas. Data on cetacean occurrence collected between 2012 to 2017 abroad OPOs was used to study cetacean distribution and habitat within the ENA, in the area delimited by the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula and northwest Africa and the archipelagos of Macaronesia. A great biodiversity of cetacean species was reported in the high seas. Eight species were recorded more often: Delphinus delphis, Stenella frontalis, Stenella coeruleoalba, Tursiops truncatus, Ziphius cavirostris, Globicephala sp., Physeter macrocephalus and Balaenoptera acutorostrata, with D. delphis being the most frequently sighted. Ecological niche modelling was conducted taking into account detectability factors, spatiotemporal variables, oceanographic processes and topographic structures: D. delphis preferred areas located in the north and in coastal shallow waters, mostly in the Iberian Peninsula and the Azores archipelago; Stenella sp. presented a wide ecological niche, occurring mostly in oceanic waters and in the archipelagos; T. Tursiops was associated with continental platforms; Z. cavirostris preferred northern oceanic waters and was associated with seamounts; Globicephala sp. and P. macrocephalus occurred further south; and B. acutorostrata preferred northern oceanic waters in areas closer to the seamounts. Dedicated survey effort is needed in priority areas where suitable habitats were predicted with higher probability and further research is needed to better understand the population structure and connectivity between regions, species movements and effects of anthropogenic impacts at the basin-scale. To address current priorities in marine conservation, the present dataset should be used for spatial marine planning and to model cetacean distribution under future climate change scenarios.

  • CETUS: Cetacean monitoring surveys in the Eastern North Atlantic, more

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