Polar Biology

, Volume 26, Issue 9, pp 577–586 | Cite as

Habitat selection by ice-associated pinnipeds near St. Lawrence Island, Alaska in March 2001

  • Michael A. Simpkins
  • Lisa M. Hiruki-Raring
  • Gay Sheffield
  • Jacqueline M. Grebmeier
  • John L. Bengtson
Original Paper

Abstract

Aerial surveys of ice-associated pinnipeds were conducted south of St. Lawrence Island in March 2001. The observed distributions of bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), ribbon seals (Phoca fasciata), ringed seals (P. hispida), spotted seals (P. largha), and walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) were compared to the distributions of ice habitat types and benthic communities. Randomization tests were used to investigate habitat selection for each species. Both ringed seals and walruses preferred large ice floes (>48 m in diameter) that were common in the interior ice pack. Spotted seals favored smaller ice floes (<20 m in diameter) common near the ice edge, and bearded seals avoided large floes and preferred transitional habitat between small and large floes. Ringed seals also seemed to prefer areas with greater than 90% sea ice coverage, and bearded seals preferred 70–90% sea ice coverage while avoiding areas with greater than 90% coverage. All species, except spotted seals, were seen most frequently in a region of high benthic biomass, and randomization tests suggested that bearded seals actively selected that region.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank the Captain and crew of the USCGC "Polar Star" (WAGB-10) for their dedicated support of our multi-disciplinary study and their whole-hearted effort to rescue the crew of the F.V. "Arctic Rose", which unfortunately was lost with all aboard during the time of our research cruise. We also thank the pilots and mechanics of Aviation Detail 150 for their assistance with our survey flights. The 15 other members of our research team collected and processed the benthic samples at all hours and in all weather conditions. We would particularly like to thank the other principal investigators, Lee Cooper and James Lovvorn, for their willingness to accommodate our helicopter flight schedule even when it interfered with gathering oceanographic and benthic samples. This manuscript was improved by comments from Peter Boveng, John Burns, Mads-Peter Heide-Jørgensen, and two anonymous reviewers. Funding for this study was provided by the National Science Foundation to J.M. Grebmeier (OPP-9813946 and OPP-9910319) and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Aerial survey work was authorized by National Marine Fisheries Service Scientific Research Permit 782–1355 issued to the National Marine Mammal Laboratory.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Simpkins
    • 1
  • Lisa M. Hiruki-Raring
    • 1
  • Gay Sheffield
    • 2
  • Jacqueline M. Grebmeier
    • 3
  • John L. Bengtson
    • 1
  1. 1.National Marine Mammal LaboratoryAlaska Fisheries Science CenterSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Alaska Department of Fish and GameFairbanksUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyThe University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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