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Title: Basking shark movement ecology in the north-east Atlantic
Author: Doherty, Philip David
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2017
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Large marine vertebrate species can exhibit vast movements, both horizontally and vertically, which challenges our ability to observe their behaviours at extended time-scales. There is a growing need to understand the intra- and inter-annual movements of mobile marine species of conservation concern in order to develop effective management strategies. The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the world's second largest fish species, however, a comprehensive understanding of this species’ ecology, biology and spatial behaviour in the north-east Atlantic is currently lacking. This thesis seeks to investigate the movement ecology of basking sharks using a suite of technologies to integrate biologging, biotelemetry, remotely sensed data, and ecological modelling techniques. I use satellite telemetry data from basking sharks tracked in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to quantify movements in coastal waters off the west coast of Scotland within the Sea of the Hebrides proposed MPA. Sharks exhibited seasonal residency to the proposed MPA, with three long-term tracked basking sharks demonstrating inter-annual site fidelity, returning to the same coastal waters in the year following tag deployment (Chapter 2). I reveal that sharks tracked into winter months exhibit one of three migration strategies spanning nine geo-political zones and the High Seas, demonstrating the need for multi-national cooperation in the management of this species across its range (Chapter 3). I examine the vertical space-use of basking sharks to improve an understanding of the processes that influence movements in all dimensions. Basking sharks exhibit seasonality in depth-use, conduct deep dives to over 1000 m, and alter their depth-use behaviour in order to remain within thermal niche of between 8 and 16 oC (Chapter 4). Finally, I combine contemporaneous data recorded by deployed satellite tags with remotely sensed environmental data to employ novel ecological modelling techniques to predict suitable habitat for basking sharks throughout the Atlantic Ocean (Chapter 5).
Supervisor: Witt, Matthew ; Godley, Brendan Sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Animal movement ; Cetorhinus maximus ; Conservation ; North-east Atlantic ; Satellite tracking ; Ensemble Ecological Niche Modelling (EENM) ; Habitat suitability ; Ocean remote sensing ; Vertical migration