A Spatially explicit risk assessment approach: Cetaceans and marine traffic in the Pelagos Sanctuary (Mediterranean Sea)

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Pennino, Maria Grazia ; Arcangeli, Antonella ; Prado Fonseca, Vinícius ; Campana, Ilaria ; Pierce , Graham J. ; Rotta, Andrea (2017)
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science
  • Subject: VET/02 Fisiologia veterinaria

Spatially explicit risk assessment is an essential component of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), which provides a comprehensive framework for managing multiple uses of the marine environment, minimizing environmental impacts and conflicts among users. In this study, we assessed the risk of the exposure to high intensity vessel traffic areas for the three most abundant cetacean species (<i>Stenella coeruleoalba</i>, <i>Tursiops truncatus</i> and <i>Balaenoptera physalus</i>) in the southern area of the Pelagos Sanctuary, which is the only pelagic Marine Protected Area (MPA) for marine mammals in the Mediterranean Sea. In particular, we modeled the occurrence of the three cetacean species as a function of habitat variables in June by using hierarchical Bayesian spatial-temporal models. Similarly, we modelled the marine traffic intensity in order to find high risk areas and estimated the potential conflict due to the overlap with the cetacean home ranges. Results identified two main hot-spots of high intensity marine traffic in the area, which partially overlap with the area of presence of the studied species. Our findings emphasize the need for nationally relevant and transboundary planning and management measures for these marine species.
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