Spatial components of bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) distribution in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea
Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) on their fall migration are exposed to oil exploration activities in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. While previous research into the effect of industrial noise on whale behavior and distribution has noted significant responses, this research has often proceeded from a parametric statistical framework. To account for the presence of spatially autocorrelated and intercorrelated data, we propose a suite of spatial analysis techniques to assess the distribution of bowhead whales relative to oil exploration activities. Using random resampling techniques and Mantel tests, we analyzed the distribution of bowhead whales around active drilling rigs in 1993. Results from the resampling tests indicated that whales were distributed farther from the drilling rig than they would be under a random scenario. Results from the Mantel tests indicated that in 1993, the spatial pattern of bowhead whale distribution was highly correlated with distance from the drilling rig, indicating that the presence of the drilling rig resulted in a significant temporary loss in available habitat. These techniques offer a new perspective on spatial analysis in the marine realm.
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