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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

Marine mammals are increasingly threatened by interactions with fishing gear, ocean noise, pollution, direct harvest, ship traffic, competition for food with fisheries, and coastal development. Managers must set limits to these sources of human-caused mortality and disturbance to marine mammals without compromising human welfare. Currently, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act limits the allowable number of deaths caused by fisheries with a simple model called Potential Biological Removal. NOAA has also recently committed to developing mapping tools to better understand where underwater noise overlaps with the distribution and density of cetaceans. Although a vast improvement to the status quo, there are still two major limitations associated with these approaches: 1) they do not consider the cumulative impacts of all threats, and 2) they assume largely unrealistic population dynamics. We propose to develop a new framework for setting removal limits that incorporates cumulative impacts, and also allows for more realistic population dynamics, especially with respect to social complexity in marine mammals. Our analyses will provide managers with clear guidelines for managing the threats that marine mammals encounter in space and time.
Working Group Participants

Principal Investigator(s)

Leah R. Gerber

Project Dates

Start: December 1, 2012

End: December 1, 2014



Leah R. Gerber
Arizona State University
Manuela Gonzalez-Suarez
Estacion Biologica de Donana, CSIC
Felipe Hurtado-Ferro
University of Washington
Eric D. Johnson
Arizona State University
Carrie V. Kappel
University of California, Santa Barbara
Sarah L. Mesnick
NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
Jeffrey E. Moore
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Lindsey Peavey
University of California, Santa Barbara
Robert P. Wildermuth
Arizona State University
Rob Williams
University of St. Andrews


  1. Journal Article / 2014

    Two-sex matrix models in assessing population viability: When do male dynamics matter?

  2. Presentations / 2013

    Trophic interactions and temperature change: Using interaction strength to predict stability and productivity

  3. Presentations / 2013

    Tipping points in temperature-dependent food webs

  4. Journal Article / in press

    Accounting for cryptic impacts in management models for marine mammals

  5. Presentations / 2013

    Linking theory and experiments: A meta-analysis of multi-trophic warming experiments

  6. Presentations / 2013

    Scaling relationships for the temperature-dependence of species performance

  7. Presentations / 2013

    Predicting responses to temperature variation: Ecology and evolution in trophic systems

  8. Journal Article / 2013

    Monitoring behavior: Assessing population status with rapid behavioral assessment

  9. Journal Article / In press

    A conceptual framework for sociality index

  10. Journal Article / In press

    Cost-effective conservation: Rapid behavioral assessment indicates population viability

  11. Presentations / 2013

    Warming up food webs: Implications for trophic energy transfer