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MEPS 659:3-28 (2021)  -  DOI:

Marine mammal hotspots in the Greenland and Barents Seas

Charmain D. Hamilton1,12,*, Christian Lydersen1, Jon Aars1, Martin Biuw2, Andrei N. Boltunov3, Erik W. Born4, Rune Dietz5, Lars P. Folkow6, Dmitri M. Glazov7, Tore Haug2, Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen4, Lisa E. Kettemer6, Kristin L. Laidre4,8, Nils Øien9, Erling S. Nordøy6, Audun H. Rikardsen6,10, Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid4, Varvara Semenova3, Olga V. Shpak7, Signe Sveegaard5, Fernando Ugarte4, Øystein Wiig11, Kit M. Kovacs1

1Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
2Institute of Marine Research, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
3Marine Mammal Research and Expedition Center, Moscow 117218, Russia
4Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
5Dept of Bioscience, Aarhus University, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
6Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, UiT - the Arctic University of Norway, 9019 Tromsø, Norway
7A. N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow 119071, Russia
8Applied Physics Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
9Institute of Marine Research, 5005 Bergen, Norway
10The Norwegian Institute of Nature Research, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
11Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, 0562 Oslo, Norway
12Present address: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, St. John's, NL A1C 5X1, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Environmental change and increasing levels of human activity are threats to marine mammals in the Arctic. Identifying marine mammal hotspots and areas of high species richness are essential to help guide management and conservation efforts. Herein, space use based on biotelemetric tracking devices deployed on 13 species (ringed seal Pusa hispida, bearded seal Erignathus barbatus, harbour seal Phoca vitulina, walrus Odobenus rosmarus, harp seal Pagophilus groenlandicus, hooded seal Cystophora cristata, polar bear Ursus maritimus, bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus, narwhal Monodon monoceros, white whale Delphinapterus leucas, blue whale Balaenoptera musculus, fin whale Balaenoptera physalus and humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae; total = 585 individuals) in the Greenland and northern Barents Seas between 2005 and 2018 is reported. Getis-Ord Gi* hotspots were calculated for each species as well as all species combined, and areas of high species richness were identified for summer/autumn (Jun-Dec), winter/spring (Jan-May) and the entire year. The marginal ice zone (MIZ) of the Greenland Sea and northern Barents Sea, the waters surrounding the Svalbard Archipelago and a few Northeast Greenland coastal sites were identified as key marine mammal hotspots and areas of high species richness in this region. Individual hotspots identified areas important for most of the tagged animals, such as common resting, nursing, moulting and foraging areas. Location hotspots identified areas heavily used by segments of the tagged populations, including denning areas for polar bears and foraging areas. The hotspots identified herein are also important habitats for seabirds and fishes, and thus conservation and management measures targeting these regions would benefit multiple groups of Arctic animals.

KEY WORDS: Ice-associated marine mammals · Seasonal migrants · Marginal ice zone · Svalbard · East Greenland · Climate change · Arctic · Biotelemetry

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Cite this article as: Hamilton CD, Lydersen C, Aars J, Biuw M and others (2021) Marine mammal hotspots in the Greenland and Barents Seas. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 659:3-28.

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