Li Kun

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  • Article
    Decadal assessment of sperm whale site-specific abundance trends in the northern Gulf of Mexico using passive acoustic data
    (MDPI, 2021-04-22) Li, Kun ; Sidorovskaia, Natalia ; Guilment, Thomas ; Tang, Tingting ; Tiemann, Christopher O.
    Passive acoustic monitoring has been successfully used to study deep-diving marine mammal populations. To assess regional population trends of sperm whales in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GoM), including impacts of the Deepwater Horizon platform oil spill in 2010, the Littoral Acoustic Demonstration Center-Gulf Ecological Monitoring and Modeling (LADC-GEMM) consortium collected broadband acoustic data in the Mississippi Valley/Canyon area between 2007 and 2017 using bottom-anchored moorings. These data allow the inference of short-term and long-term variations in site-specific abundances of sperm whales derived from their acoustic activity. A comparison is made between the abundances of sperm whales at specific sites in different years before and after the oil spill by estimating the regional abundance density. The results show that sperm whales were present in the region throughout the entire monitoring period. A habitat preference shift was observed for sperm whales after the 2010 oil spill with higher activities at sites farther away from the spill site. A comparison of the 2007 and 2015 results shows that the overall regional abundance of sperm whales did not recover to pre-spill levels. The results indicate that long-term spatially distributed acoustic monitoring is critical in characterizing sperm whale population changes and in understanding how environmental stressors impact regional abundances and the habitat use of sperm whales.