Oceanographic characteristics associated with autumn movements of bowhead whales in the Chukchi Sea
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Oceanographic characteristics associated with autumn movements of bowhead whales in the Chukchi Sea

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  • Journal Title:
    Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
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  • Description:
    Each fall, bowhead whales in the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort (BCB) population migrate westward from summering grounds in the Beaufort Sea through the Chukchi Sea to the northern coast of Chukotka, Russia. Routes whales use when crossing the Chukchi Sea vary by year; in some years, whales migrate directly to the northern coast of Chukotka while in other years, whales may pause migration and linger, presumably to feed, in the central Chukchi Sea. To investigate how whale movements may be related to oceanographic variables we examined bowhead whale habitat selection within the Chukchi Sea in autumn (September--November) at two spatial scales. First, at the landscape scale (i.e. the Chukchi Sea), we compare oceanographic variables (e.g. temperature, salinity, and current velocity) at locations within used and randomly available tracks (i.e. paths of travel) to determine how oceanographic features are associated with where whales cross the Chukchi Sea in autumn. Second, at a local scale, we examine how directed travel or lingering within a whale’s track is associated with oceanographic variables (e.g. temperature, salinity, and current velocity). Whale location data for 24 bowhead whales were paired with oceanographic data from a pan-arctic coupled ice-ocean model for 2006–2009. At the landscape scale, we found that whales generally followed water of Pacific origin characterized by temperatures <0ºC and salinities between 31.5 and 34.25. Bowhead whales avoided Alaskan Coastal Water and Siberian Shelf Water, the latter of which defines the western limit of their range, likely due to lower intrinsic densities of zooplankton prey. At the local scale, within their tracks, whales were more likely to interrupt directed movements and linger in areas characterized by stronger gradients in bottom salinity.
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    Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 152, 121-131
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  • ISSN:
    0967-0645
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    Accepted Manuscript
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    Library
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