03 July 2008

Habitat preferences for fin whales and striped dolphins in the Pelagos Sanctuary

One of the needs of the Pelagos Sanctuary is information on critical habitats for cetaceans. A newly-published study by Simone Panigada, Margherita Zanardelli and other colleagues modelled habitat use and preferences of fin whales and striped dolphins (the two most abundant species in the area) using sighting data collected by Tethys between 1993 and 1999.

Bathymetric features were the most valuable predictors for both species. Sea Surface Temperature values were indicators of striped dolphin and fin whale presence, with both species showing a tendency to prefer colder waters (21–24 °C). Chlorophyll-a levels were selected by the models only for striped dolphins, and with large associated uncertainty; this may be related to the relatively brief period examined (only 2 years) and/or to any functional relationship operating at a different geographical or temporal scale. However there was an indication that Chlorophyll-a could be an important parameter for the distribution of both species.

The results of this study - published in the top scientific journal Remote Sensing of Environment - will be used for assessing critical habitats within the Pelagos Sanctuary and are expected to provide useful information for conservation and management.

For more information:
Panigada S., Zanardelli M., MacKenzie M., Donovan C., Mélin F., Hammond P.H. 2008. Modelling habitat preferences for fin whales and striped dolphins in the Pelagos Sanctuary (Western Mediterranean Sea) with physiographic and remote sensing variables. Remote Sensing of Environment 112:3400-3412.

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