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Modeling long-term distributions of seabirds off the Pacific Coast of Washington to inform marine planning

Released: 2015
Leirness, J, C Menza, T White, A Winship, B Kinlan, S Pearson, J Zamon, J Adams, K Forney, E Becker, D Pereksta, L Antrim, L Ballance. 2015. Modeling long-term distributions of seabirds off the Pacific Coast of Washington to inform marine planning. 23rd Biennial Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) Conference, Portland, Oregon. 8-12 November 2015. 

Marine birds are diverse, highly mobile species with high potential for interactions with human activities in coastal ecosystems. Habitat modeling can help to avoid and minimize adverse interactions by facilitating spatial planning. We developed long-term seasonal distribution maps of seven seabird species off the Pacific Coast of Washington by integrating visual sightings data from ship-based and aerial surveys conducted between 2000 and 2013. An ensemble machine-learning technique was used to model counts of each species as a function of multiple spatial and temporal environmental covariates, while accounting for heterogeneous survey effort and the aggregated nature of sightings. In particular, we examined the ability of long-term climatologies of dynamic environmental variables (e.g., sea surface temperature and chlorophyll fronts) and static predictors (e.g., bathymetry) to explain spatial patterns of seabird abundance. This technique attempts to solve key statistical challenges associated with integrating various survey platforms and procedures across multiple data sets that exhibit both spatially and temporally biased effort. Output maps provide a starting point for evaluating risk to marine bird populations in the region from human activities, and identifying important offshore seabird conservation sites.

This product is associated with the following project:
Pacific Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment (PaCSEA)

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