Multi-scale and multidisciplinary analysis of baleen whale distribution in the Western Antarctic Peninsula


A.S. Friedlaender, D. Thiele, P. Halpin, and S. Moore


SO GLOBEC multidisciplinary research cruises were conducted during late summer, fall and winter of 2001 and 2002 around the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Research efforts focused on understanding the processes that affect krill and their predators. Sighting surveys were conducted on all cruises to assess the distribution and relative abundance of baleen whales in order to examine the associations between physical features and processes, and with patterns in the distribution of other biota.  Environmental conditions were different between study years, and this was somewhat reflected in the relative distribution and abundance of whales in the study area. However, whale distribution seems to be tied strongly to biological processes that are linked to physical features. To quantify this association, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) models will be created using multiple datasets (e.g., BIOMAPER II, CTD, ADCP, bathymetry, remote satellite sea-ice imagery, top predator distribution) to elucidate the variables which best describe cetacean distribution. Analysis will be conducted at a broad range of both spatial and temporal scales: historic catch data from WAP and basin-wide climatic events to current survey cruise data throughout Marguerite Bay to fine-scale patchiness within Marguerite Bay. Understanding the relationships between whale distribution and their environment may be a useful tool for measuring climate changes in the Antarctic.