Assessing site-use and sources of disturbance at walrus haul-outs using monitoring cameras

  • Kine Øren
  • Kit M. Kovacs
  • Nigel G. Yoccoz
  • Christian Lydersen
Original Paper

Abstract

The rapid growth of tourism in Polar Regions stimulates a need for investigating potential impacts on targeted species and sensitive areas. This study examines effects of tourist visitations on haul-out dynamics and site use by walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) in Svalbard, Norway. Automated camera stations were established at five traditional haul-out sites that experience variable levels of tourist visitation. The cameras took one photograph each hour, throughout June–November from 2007 to 2015 (3 sites) and 2010–2015 (2 additional sites). A total of 66,365 images were analysed. The approximate number of walruses on shore, and % sea-ice cover was estimated for each image; additionally, the presence/absence of tourists, boats and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) were recorded. A log-linear regression model was run on residuals from an ARIMA model, fitted to each season of counts from each site. Use of the terrestrial haul-out sites was sometimes restricted by sea-ice cover, but walruses were also absent (or present rarely) at some sites, despite a lack of sea ice. Tourists on land and boats near the haul-out sites (with a single exception) did not disturb walrus haul-out behaviour significantly (p > 0.05) at any of the sites. In addition, most polar bear visits were not associated with detectable disturbances. However, polar bears did significantly disturb walrus herds at Andréetangen (p = 0.003) and Storøya (p = 0.002) in some years. These disturbances were likely associated with predation attempts on calves.

Keywords

Arctic Behaviour Polar bears Predation Sea ice Svalbard Tourism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was financed by the Norwegian Polar Institute. We thank everyone who has contributed to maintaining the camera stations, including Jon Aars, Jens Abild, Vidar Bakken, Kristen Fossan, Rupert Krapp, Anders Skoglund, Harald Steen and Hallvard Strøm. We are also grateful for the valuable contributions made to the study by the Governor’s Office in Svalbard who provided the tourist records and post-visitation site data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors of this research have no conflict of interests.

Supplementary material

300_2018_2313_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (562 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 562 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kine Øren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kit M. Kovacs
    • 1
  • Nigel G. Yoccoz
    • 2
  • Christian Lydersen
    • 1
  1. 1.Norwegian Polar InstituteTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway

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