| Defining the North Atlantic right whale calving habitat in the Southeastern United States, an application of a habitat model - :8666 | National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
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Defining the North Atlantic right whale calving habitat in the Southeastern United States, an application of a habitat model
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  • Description:
    "A habitat analysis was conducted to examine the relationships between environmental characteristics and the spatial distribution of calving right whales in the southeast United States off of northern Florida and Georgia. A time series of right whale sightings data from aerial surveys conducted between December and March from 1992/1993 to 2000/2001 was used to assess habitat correlations and spatial patterns in right whale distribution. Satellite derived sea surface temperature, bathymetry, modeled average wind data, and several spatial variables were examined using a Generalized Additive Modeling approach. The model results indicate that sea surface temperature and water depth are significant predictors of calving right whale spatial distribution. The habitat relationships are unimodal, with peak sighting rates occurring at water temperatures from 13-15°C and water depths from 10-20m. These habitat features may be used to describe critical habitat areas off the coast of Florida and Georgia. The model also predicts that areas outside of the currently defined critical habitat are important for calving right whales. Recent surveys indicate that waters off of South Carolina and North Carolina are also frequently be used by calving right whales, and the habitat features identified in the current analysis are also present in these regions. However, additional data collection and analysis is needed before applying the predictions of the current model to these areas. The current analysis is developed as a tool for managers to define the spatial extent of right whale calving habitat and to designate revised critical habitat areas as defined by the Endangered Species Act"--Executive summary.

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