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ESR Special
Humpback and right whale high-use areas in the Gulf of Maine shown on a regional sea surface temperature image.

Beyond marine mammal habitat modeling: applications for ecology and conservation


Habitat modeling for marine mammals has made tremendous advances in the past decade. The application of statistical models to elucidate relationships between species and their environment has become commonplace in the literature. While these models have provided some insights into marine mammal–habitat associations, the biological or ecological significance of many relationships remains frustratingly unclear. Only by combining these largely descriptive efforts with additional oceanographic and ecosystem studies will we begin to provide insights into the processes that govern marine mammal distribution and behavior and ultimately contribute to conservation. Emerging from an ongoing series of workshops on marine mammal habitat modeling (, this ESR Theme Section showcases studies that emphasize the ecological and management implications of modeled species-environment relationships.


Articles belonging to this Theme Section were published upon completion in the respective issue of ESR. They are listed below as well as on the contents page of the respective issue of publication.


Guest Editors: Edward Gregr, Mark Baumgartner, Kristin Laidre, Daniel Palacios




Gregr EJ, Baumgartner MF, Laidre KL, Palacios DM

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

ESR 22:205-212 | Full text in pdf format




Gilles A, Adler S, Kaschner K, Scheidat M, Siebert U

Modelling harbour porpoise seasonal density as a function of the German Bight environment: implications for management

ESR 14:157-169 | Full text in pdf format



Corkeron PJ, Minton G, Collins T, Findlay K, Willson A, Baldwin R

Spatial models of sparse data to inform cetacean conservation planning: an example from Oman

ESR 15:39-52 | Full text in pdf format


Gerrodette T, Eguchi T

Precautionary design of a marine protected area based on a habitat model

ESR 15:159-166 | Full text in pdf format


Lambert E, MacLeod CD, Hall K, Brereton T, Dunn TE, Wall D, Jepson PD, Deaville R, Pierce GJ

Quantifying likely cetacean range shifts in response to global climatic change: implications for conservation strategies in a changing world

ESR 15:205-222 | Full text in pdf format

Gregr EJ

Insights into North Pacific right whale Eubalaena japonica habitat from historic whaling records

ESR 15:223-239 | Full text in pdf format


Becker EA, Foley DG, Forney KA, Barlow J, Redfern JV, Gentemann CL

Forecasting cetacean abundance patterns to enhance management decisions

ESR 16:97-112 | Full text in pdf format



Forney KA, Ferguson MC, Becker EA, Fiedler PC, Redfern JV, Barlow J, Vilchis IL, Ballance LT

Habitat-based spatial models of cetacean density in the eastern Pacific Ocean

ESR 16:113-133 | Full text in pdf format



Goetz KT, Montgomery RA, Ver Hoef JM, Hobbs RC, Johnson DS

Identifying essential summer habitat of the ­endangered beluga whale Delphinapterus leucas in Cook Inlet, Alaska

ESR 16:135-147 | Full text in pdf format



Wheeler B, Gilbert M, Rowe S

Definition of critical summer and fall habitat for bowhead whales in the eastern Canadian Arctic

ESR 17:1-16 | Full text in pdf format



Doniol-Valcroze T, Lesage V, Giard J, Michaud R

Challenges in marine mammal habitat modelling: evidence of multiple foraging habitats from the identification of feeding events in blue whales

ESR 17:255-268 | Full text in pdf format



Blasi MF, Boitani L

Modelling fine-scale distribution of the bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus using physiographic features on Filicudi (southern Thyrrenian Sea, Italy)

ESR 17:269-288 | Full text in pdf format



Best BD, Halpin PN, Read AJ, Fujioka E, Good CP, LaBrecque EA, Schick RS, Roberts JJ, Hazen LJ, Qian SS, Palka DL, Garrison LP, McLellan WA

Online cetacean habitat modeling system for the US east coast and Gulf of Mexico

ESR 18:1-15 | Full text in pdf format



Keller CA, Garrison L, Baumstark R, Ward-Geiger LI, Hines E

Application of a habitat model to define calving habitat of the North Atlantic right whale in the southeastern United States

ESR 18:73-87 | Full text in pdf format



Pendleton DE, Sullivan PJ, Brown MW, Cole TVN, Good CP, Mayo CA, Monger BC, Phillips S, Record NR, Pershing AJ

Weekly predictions of North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis habitat reveal influence of prey abundance and seasonality of habitat preferences

ESR 18:147-161 | Full text in pdf format



Gallus A, Dähne M, Verfuß UK, Bräger S, Adler S, Siebert U, Benke H

Use of static passive acoustic monitoring to assess the status of the ‘Critically Endangered’ Baltic harbour porpoise in German waters

ESR 18:265-278 | Full text in pdf format



Palacios DM, Baumgartner MF, Laidre KL, Gregr EJ

AS WE SEE IT: Beyond correlation: integrating environmentally and behaviourally mediated processes in models of marine mammal distributions

ESR 22:191-203 | Full text in pdf format