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21-05-2021 | Issue 2/2021

Environmental Management 2/2021

Suitability Analysis of Acoustic Refugia for Endangered Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) Using the GIS-based Logic Scoring of Preference Method

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 2/2021
Authors:
Logan Drackett, Suzana Dragićević
Important notes
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Abstract

An emerging priority in marine noise pollution research is identifying marine “acoustic refugia” where noise levels are relatively low and good-quality habitat is available to acoustically sensitive species. The endangered Southern Resident population of killer whales (Orcinus orca) that inhabits the transboundary Salish Sea in Canada and the USA are affected by noise pollution. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial multicriteria evaluation (MCE) methods have been used to operationalize suitability analysis in ecology and conservation for site selection problems. However, commonly used methods lack the ability to represent complex logical relationships between input criteria. Therefore, the objective of this study is to apply a more advanced MCE method, known as Logic Scoring of Preference (LSP), to identify acoustic refugia for killer whales in the Salish Sea. This GIS-based LSP-MCE approach considers multiple input criteria by combining input data representing killer whale habitat requirements with noise pollution and other factors to identify suitable acoustic refugia. The results indicate the locations of suitable acoustic refugia and how they are affected by noise pollution from marine vessels in three scenarios developed to represent different levels of vessel traffic. Identifying acoustic refugia can contribute to efforts to reduce the effect of marine noise pollution on killer whale populations by highlighting high-priority areas in which to implement policies such as traffic-limiting measures or marine protected areas. Moreover, the proposed LSP-MCE procedure combines criteria in a stepwise manner that can support environmental management decision-making processes and can be applied to other marine suitability analysis contexts.

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