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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 22:205-212 (2013)  -  DOI:

Marine mammal habitat models come of age: the emergence of ecological and management relevance

Edward J. Gregr1,2,*, Mark F. Baumgartner3, Kristin L. Laidre4, Daniel M. Palacios5,6 

1SciTech Environmental Consulting, 2136 Napier Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V5L 2N9, Canada
2Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
3Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology Department, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
4Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, 1013 NE 40th Street, Seattle, Washington 98105, USA
5Environmental Research Division, NOAA/NMFS/Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 1352 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove, California 93950, USA
6Present address: Marine Mammal Institute, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University, 2030 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA

ABSTRACT: Models for predicting marine mammal habitat are increasingly being developed to help answer questions about species’ ecology, conservation, and management. Over the past 10 yr, 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.

KEY WORDS: Critical habitat · Marine protected areas · MPA · Habitat suitability · Marine spatial planning · MSP · Conservation · Management

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Cite this article as: Gregr EJ, Baumgartner MF, Laidre KL, Palacios DM (2013) Marine mammal habitat models come of age: the emergence of ecological and management relevance. Endang Species Res 22:205-212.

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