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Title: Predator movements in complex geography : spatial distribution and temporal occurrence of low-density bottlenose dolphin communities off western Scotland
Author: van Geel, Catherina Francisca (Nienke)
ISNI:       0000 0004 5922 237X
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of the Highlands and Islands
Date of Award: 2016
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The coastal waters off western Scotland are inhabited by two small under-studied common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) communities: the Inner Hebrides and the Sound of Barra (SoB) community. The region is considered for future developments for the marine renewables industry, which have the potential to negatively impact these communities; however the assessment of impacts and the development of plans to minimise these are currently hampered by a lack of knowledge about the dolphin's distribution and residency patterns, and spatial and temporal mobility. Using a variety of research methods (dedicated cetacean surveys and targeted photo-ID trips, acoustic monitoring and the collection of opportunistic photo-ID and sightings data from the general public) the current study examined local dolphin spatial and temporal mobility patterns by investigation of their spatial distribution and temporal occurrence. Collectively, the results revealed the presence of two socially and geographically separated (at least 2006-2013) resident communities which both demonstrated year-round presence and long-term site-fidelity, but maintained different ranging patterns. Long-term presence of individuals from the Inner Hebrides community dated back to 2001 and dolphins from this community ranged widely in nearshore waters throughout the entire currently known communal range, and practically used the entire range throughout the year. The SoB community, on the other hand, appeared to have a more restricted distribution, and appeared female-dominated. Summer censuses of the SoB community revealed annual estimates of ≤15 dolphins, with four individuals first identified in 1995, and at least eight calves born since 2005. Acoustic presence of dolphins in the SoB varied through the year, and in relation to the tidal and diel cycles. This study demonstrated that the integration of complementary methodological approaches is useful in investigating mobility patterns of low-density populations, and given the indications for social and spatial isolation, these communities should be managed independently.
Supervisor: Wilson, Ben Sponsor: Harper Macleod LLP ; Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland ; University of the Highlands and Islands
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Bottlenose dolphins ; Bottlenose dolphns ; Mammal populations ; Renewable energy sources