Using individual-based bioenergetic models to predict the aggregate effects of disturbance on populations: a case study with beaked whales and Navy sonar

Vincent Hin, André M. de Roos, Kelly J. Benoit-Bird, Diane E. Claridge, Nancy DiMarzio, John W. Durban, Erin A. Falcone, Eiren K. Jacobson, Charlotte M. Jones-Todd, Enrico Pirotta, Gregory S. Schorr, Len Thomas, Stephanie Watwood, John Harwood

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Abstract

Anthropogenic activities can lead to changes in animal behavior. Predicting population consequences of these behavioral changes requires integrating short-term individual responses into models that forecast population dynamics across multiple generations. This is especially challenging for long-lived animals, because of the different time scales involved. Beaked whales are a group of deep-diving odontocete whales that respond behaviorally when exposed to military mid-frequency active sonar (MFAS), but the effect of these nonlethal responses on beaked whale populations is unknown. Population consequences of aggregate exposure to MFAS was assessed for two beaked whale populations that are regularly present on U.S. Navy training ranges where MFAS is frequently used. Our approach integrates a wide range of data sources, including telemetry data, information on spatial variation in habitat quality, passive acoustic data on the temporal pattern of sonar use and its relationship to beaked whale foraging activity, into an individual-based model with a dynamic bioenergetic module that governs individual life history. The predicted effect of disturbance from MFAS on population abundance ranged between population extinction to a slight increase in population abundance. These effects were driven by the interaction between the temporal pattern of MFAS use, baseline movement patterns, the spatial distribution of prey, the nature of beaked whale behavioral response to MFAS and the top-down impact of whale foraging on prey abundance. Based on these findings, we provide recommendations for monitoring of marine mammal populations and highlight key uncertainties to help guide future directions for assessing population impacts of nonlethal disturbance for these and other long-lived animals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0290819
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume18
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2023

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