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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 602:255-274 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12640

Improving the spatial allocation of marine mammal and sea turtle biomasses in spatially explicit ecosystem models

Arnaud Grüss1,*, Michael D. Drexler2, Cameron H. Ainsworth2, Jason J. Roberts3, Ruth H. Carmichael4, Nathan F. Putman5, Paul M. Richards6, Emily Chancellor2, Elizabeth A. Babcock1, Matthew S. Love7

1Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
2College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, 140 7th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, USA
3Marine Geospatial Ecology Laboratory, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
4Dauphin Island Sea Lab, 101 Bienville Blvd., Dauphin Island, AL 36528, USA
5LGL Ecological Research Associates, Inc. 4103 S. Texas Avenue, Bryan, TX 77802, USA
6National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, FL 33149, USA
7Ocean Conservancy 1300 19th Street NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20036, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) is gaining traction worldwide, including in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Ecosystem models, such as applications of the Atlantis and Ecospace modeling approaches, are key tools for assisting EBFM. Patterns of spatial overlap between exploited fish species, other species of concern such as marine mammals and sea turtles, and human activities can have a large influence on the predictions made by ecosystem models, but these patterns are usually not well defined. We developed methods for producing distribution maps for the cetacean, sirenian, and sea turtle groups represented in the Atlantis model of the GOM, and employed a method, initially designed for fish and invertebrates, for generating preference functions for the dolphin species represented in the Ecospace model of the West Florida Shelf. Preference functions specify the preferences of species for certain environmental conditions and are used by Ecospace to allocate species biomasses in space. We also took advantage of our mapping outputs to estimate the percentage of spatial overlap between the hotspots of cetaceans and sea turtles in the US GOM and their areas of bycatch in the US pelagic longline fishery. The present study provides new insights into the spatial distribution patterns of marine mammals and sea turtles in the GOM large marine ecosystem, including the first quantitatively supported maps of Florida manatee (sirenian) distribution along the entire US GOM coast. Efforts such as ours should be continued for improving the reliability of ecosystem models and, thereby, advancing EBFM worldwide.


KEY WORDS: Distribution maps · Preference functions · Ecosystem models · Cetaceans · Florida manatee · Sea turtles · Gulf of Mexico · Ecosystem-based fisheries management


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Cite this article as: Grüss A, Drexler MD, Ainsworth CH, Roberts JJ and others (2018) Improving the spatial allocation of marine mammal and sea turtle biomasses in spatially explicit ecosystem models. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 602:255-274. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12640

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