Habitat selection by two beluga whale populations in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas = 40%) than females (0-40%) in July-August. Proximity to shore (< 200 km) strongly predicted summer habitat of Beaufort females, while distance to the ice edge was important for male habitat selection, especially during westward migration in September. Overall, our results indicate that sea ice variables were rarely the primary drivers of beluga summer-fall habitat selection. While diminished sea ice may indirectly affect belugas through changes in the ecosystem, associations with bathymetric features that affect prey availability seemed key to habitat selection during summer and fall. These results provide a benchmark by which to assess future changes in beluga habitat use of the Pacific Arctic.'>
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Habitat selection by two beluga whale populations in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas
  • Published Date:

    2017

  • Source:
    PLOS ONE
Filetype[PDF-2.18 MB]


Details:
  • Alternative Title:
    Habitat selection by two beluga whale populations in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas
  • Description:
    There has been extensive sea ice loss in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas where two beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) populations occur between July-November. Our goal was to develop population-specific beluga habitat selection models that quantify relative use of sea ice and bathymetric features related to oceanographic processes, which can provide context to the importance of changing sea ice conditions. We established habitat selection models that incorporated daily sea ice measures (sea ice concentration, proximity to ice edge and dense ice) and bathymetric features (slope, depth, proximity to the continental slope, Barrow Canyon, and shore) to establish quantitative estimates of habitat use for the Eastern Chukchi Sea ('Chukchi') and Eastern Beaufort Sea ('Beaufort') populations. We applied 'used v. available' resource selection functions to locations of 65 whales tagged from 1993-2012, revealing large variations in seasonal habitat selection that were distinct between sex and population groups. Chukchi whales of both sexes were predicted to use areas in close proximity to Barrow Canyon (typically < 200 km) as well as the continental slope in summer, although deeper water and denser ice were stronger predictors for males than females. Habitat selection differed more between sexes for Beaufort belugas. Beaufort males selected higher ice concentrations (>= 40%) than females (0-40%) in July-August. Proximity to shore (< 200 km) strongly predicted summer habitat of Beaufort females, while distance to the ice edge was important for male habitat selection, especially during westward migration in September. Overall, our results indicate that sea ice variables were rarely the primary drivers of beluga summer-fall habitat selection. While diminished sea ice may indirectly affect belugas through changes in the ecosystem, associations with bathymetric features that affect prey availability seemed key to habitat selection during summer and fall. These results provide a benchmark by which to assess future changes in beluga habitat use of the Pacific Arctic.
  • DOI:
    10.1371/journal.pone.0172755
  • Pubmed Central ID:
    PMC5325469
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