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Development of the PCAD Model to Assess Biological Significance of Acoustic Disturbance

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Technical Report

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University of California Santa Cruz United States

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Assessing the impact of disturbance events on marine mammal species is important to stakeholders who must balance project objectives with the environmental impacts. Interest in this topic has led to key discoveries relating to species-specific sensitivities, behavioral responses, and the physics of disturbance however, we still lack the ability to predict the effect of potential disturbance events on a population. To better inform, the PCAD Population Consequences of Acoustic Disturbance working group established a conceptual framework detailing the impact of disturbance events and how the effects cascade from individuals altering their behavior all the way to population-level demographic effects. These methods require substantial pre-existing knowledge of foraging patterns, life-history schedules, and demographics. It is essential to use well-studied species to validate the approach. We identified northern elephant seals and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. These species represent two life-history extremes, have clear taxonomic separation, and both species have been studied intensively, providing unprecedented demographic data. In the current project, we are focusing on several key opportunities. First, the combination of remarkable demographic data with health or body condition data will allow us for the first time to assess the effects of a disturbance event through all of the transfer functions of the PCAD model. This will be done with both simulated, natural, and experimental disturbance events, giving us the power to estimate the effects of proposed disturbance activities while bounding the estimates with real-world values. We will also be focusing on some of the mechanistic aspects of the PCAD model. For example, by investigating fine-scale energetics via accelerometry or the role of stress response in long-term health and reproduction, we can begin developing tools that will enhance our confidence in the PCAD model for the data-limitingcryptic species.

Subject Categories:

  • Biological Oceanography
  • Information Science
  • Operations Research

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