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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13584

Marine mammal hotspots in the Greenland and Barents Seas

Charmain D. Hamilton*, Christian Lydersen, Jon Aars, Martin Biuw, Andrei N. Boltunov, Erik W. Born, Rune Dietz, Lars P. Folkow, Dmitri M. Glazov, Tore Haug, Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen, Lisa E. Kettemer, Kristin L. Laidre, Nils Øien, Erling S. Nordøy, Audun H. Rikardsen, Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid, Varvara Semenova, Olga V. Shpak, Signe Sveegaard, Fernando Ugarte, Øystein Wiig, Kit M. Kovacs

*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 seals Pusa hispida, bearded seals Erignathus barbatus, harbour seals Phoca vitulina, walruses Odobenus rosmarus, harp seals Pagophilus groenlandicus, hooded seals Cystophora cristata, polar bears Ursus maritimus, bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus, narwhals Monodon monoceros, white whales Delphinapterus leucas, blue whales Balaenoptera musculus, fin whales Balaenoptera physalus, humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae; total=585) 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.