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Gregr E.J.,SciTech Environmental Consulting
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2011

Whaling records from the mid-1800s provide the largest set of observations with which to conduct a basin-scale analysis of potential North Pacific right whale Eubalaena japonica habitat. Since these data lack the concurrent oceanographic data necessary to investigate the species' habitat characteristics I used ocean climate from a 20th century circulation model to create a suitable set of habitat predictors. My goals were to (1) identify regions of suitable habitat and (2) investigate the processes underlying the species-habitat relationship by (3) examining model performance at different spatial and temporal scales. The results show 2 non-overlapping habitat regions in the subarctic North Pacific, supporting the notion of 2 distinct subpopulations. The analysis also implicates surface temperature and temperature variability as strong indicators of potential right whale habitat. Tests of model performance at different scales strongly suggest that at the basin-scale, right whales use regions of cold water with low inter-annual variability and high within-season variability (i.e. areas where high frontal activity occurs predictably from year to year). The significance of these indicators decreased at the regional scale emphasising the coupling of scale and process, and thus the need for different predictors at different scales. Comparisons of models built using different subsets of the dependent data showed how hypotheses can be tested and potential biases in observational data can be explored. Analyses of rare species' habitat such as this can provide guidance for more directed survey efforts and help identify areas and processes of potential biological importance. © Inter-Research 2011. Source


Gregr E.J.,SciTech Environmental Consulting | Gregr E.J.,University of British Columbia | Baumgartner M.F.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Laidre K.L.,University of Washington | And 2 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2014

Models for predicting marine mammal habitat are increasingly being developed to help answer questions about species' ecology, conservation, and management. Over the past 10yr, the models and analyses presented at the Habitat Modelling Workshops of the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals have shown tremendous development in their breadth and complexity. At the 18th Biennial, held in Quebec City, Canada, in 2009 we noticed a change in how these models were presented. Instead of a focus on methods and model development, many researchers presented models highlighting ecological insights or management applications. We recognised this as a watershed moment for our discipline, the time when we started paying more attention to what our models were telling us than how to build them. To celebrate this progress, we invited researchers from the global marine mammal community to submit articles to this Theme Section of Endangered Species Research describing work that included not only advanced model development, but also emphasised ecological interpretation or management relevance. The resulting collection of articles highlights the leading science in marine mammal habitat modelling, and provides some important indications of how, as a community, we must continue to refine our methods to move beyond correlations towards understanding the processes that interact to create marine mammal habitat. While there will no doubt be future challenges to overcome, the articles in this collection raise the standard for marine mammal habitat modelling, and herald the transition from learning how to model, to using our models as a heuristic tool to support ecological understanding and marine spatial planning. © Inter-Research 2013. Source


Palacios D.M.,Southwest Fisheries Science Center | Palacios D.M.,Oregon State University | Baumgartner M.F.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Laidre K.L.,University of Washington | And 2 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2014

Marine species distribution modeling has seen explosive growth in recent years, and the Endangered Species Research Theme Section entitled 'Beyond marine mammal habitat modeling: applications for ecology and conservation' demonstrates that the field of marine mammalogy has been no exception. For the past decade, marine mammal ecologists have been developing habitat models with increasing proficiency and sophistication. However, these efforts have largely focused on correlative analyses of observed species-environment associations, which often have low explanatory power due to the absence of critical, but unaccounted for processes that are important drivers of animal distributions. Here we provide an overview of these processes, advocate for directed studies (e.g. tagging, prey sampling, focal follows, physiological assessment) to address how the processes influence species' distributions, and challenge the modeling community to incorporate these results into their efforts. We also identify a progression of modeling stages from correlative to confirmatory to mechanistic that should lead us to formulate increasingly robust and accurate predictions of species distributions rooted in greater ecological understanding. Given the on-going risks to marine mammals from human activities and climate change, such models are needed for conservation and management now more than ever. © Inter-Research 2013. Source


Gregr E.J.,SciTech Environmental Consulting | Lessard J.,Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Center | Harper J.,Coastal and Oceans Resources Inc.
Progress in Oceanography | Year: 2013

The shallow, coastal regions of the world's oceans are highly productive ecosystems providing important habitat for commercial, forage, endangered, and iconic species. Given the diversity of ecosystem services produced or supported by this ecosystem, a better understanding of its structure and function is central to developing an ecosystem-based approach to management. However this region - termed the 'white strip' by marine geologists because of the general lack of high-resolution bathymetric data - is dynamic, highly variable, and difficult to access making data collection challenging and expensive. Since substrate is a key indicator of habitat in this important ecosystem, our objective was to create a continuous substrate map from the best available bottom type data. Such data are critical to assessments of species distributions and anthropogenic risk. Using the Strait of Georgia in coastal British Columbia, Canada, as a case study, we demonstrate how such a map can be created from a diversity of sources. Our approach is simple, quantitative, and transparent making it amenable to iterative improvement as data quality and availability improve. We evaluated the ecological performance of our bottom patches using observed shellfish distributions. We found that observations of geoduck clam, an infaunal species, and red urchins, a species preferentially associated with hard bottom, were strongly and significantly associated with our soft and hard patches respectively. Our description of bottom patches also corresponded well with a more traditional, morphological classification of a portion of the study area. To provide subsequent analyses (such as habitat models) with some confidence in the defined bottom type values, we developed a corresponding confidence surface based on the agreement of, and distance between observations. Our continuous map of nearshore bottom patches thus provides a spatial framework to which other types of data, both abiotic (e.g., energy) and biotic, can be attached. As more data are associated with the bottom patches, we anticipate they will become increasingly useful for representing and developing species-habitat relationships, ultimately leading to a comprehensive representation of the nearshore ecosystem. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source


Gregr E.J.,SciTech Environmental Consulting | Ahrens A.L.,SciTech Environmental Consulting | Ian Perry R.,Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Marine Policy | Year: 2012

The classification of marine habitats is a critical first step towards the protection of marine biodiversity and the sustainable management of the world's oceans. Recently, the topic has received heightened attention as the 2012 deadline for meeting international commitments under the convention on biological diversity (CBD) approaches. These commitments require the development of a unified approach to identifying high-seas areas in need of protection. To determine the best approach, criteria for identifying sensitive areas proposed by the CBD and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations were compared to the ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSAs) criteria developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The comparison demonstrates that, with some minor refinements, the EBSA criteria are parsimonious and encompass all other criteria proposed to date. To identify the most suitable approach for defining EBSAs, 16 classifications of the world's oceans, ranging from coastal regions to the high-seas, were reviewed for their suitability to define EBSAs. The classifications differed in substantive ways, including analytical methods (from quantitative analyses to subjective interpretations), data sources (either physical or biological), and the realm to which they were applied (high-seas, coastal, or deep-ocean). No method currently provides an integrated, whole-ecosystem approach to identifying a comprehensive set of important marine areas. To move to a singular, multi-attribute, description of EBSAs requires an explicit, reproducible methodology. Here, the EBSA approach is formalised as an adaptive method that integrates existing classifications in an efficient, holistic, and transparent manner, by explicitly considering important marine features (IMFs) and biologically sensitive areas (BSAs). The proposed approach directly addresses the EBSA criteria, and is applicable across the different realms of the world's oceans. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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