USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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Released: 2016
Leirness, J, Menza, C, White, T, Winship, A, Kinlan, B, Pierce, J, Pearson, S, Zamon, JE, Adams, J, Forney, K, Becker, E, Pereksta, D, Antrim, L, Balance, L. 2016. MODELING SEABIRD DISTRIBUTIONS TO INFORM WASHINGTON’S MARINE SPATIAL PLAN.  43rd Annual Meeting Pacific Seabird Group, Oahu HI. 10-13 February 2016

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 densities. Quantitative methods developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be used to evaluate and combine species-specific estimates of relative density with a goal of identifying ecologically important areas in the state’s offshore environment. This procedure provides a starting point for evaluating risk to marine bird populations in the region from human activities for the purpose of marine spatial planning.

This product is associated with the following project:
Seabird Vulnerability Assessment for Renewable Energy Projects

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