A pinboard by
Chloe Malinka

PhD Fellow, Marine Bioacoustics Lab, Aarhus University, Denmark


The first description of how porpoises and dolphins move around tidal energy devices

The increasing concern over the threat of global climate change has prompted many nations to set ambitious renewable energy targets to reduce carbon emissions. Marine resources have been recognized as a sustainable, predictable and largely untapped source, and are expected to comprise a large portion of clean energy contributions. Several in-stream tidal turbine projects - analagous to underwater wind turbines - are proposed around the world.

However, the development of such marine renewable devicess has raised concerns regarding impacts on marine wildlife, particularly marine mammals. These include the risk of habitat exclusion, disturbance, and the potential of animal collision with the underwater turbine.

I work with passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) data collected at tidal turbine sites in the UK. We use tools that listen to the sounds in the vicinity of the turbine. These acoustically detect, classify and track the 3D movements of porpoises and dolphins via their vocalisations. This allows us to see how these marine mammals move and behave around these devices whilst in operation. We present the first data of its kind, showing fine-scale movements of porpoises and dolphins around an underwater turbine. The environmental monitoring methods I use could be scaled up to marine renewable arrays currently proposed at large scales worldwide.

This work was done in conjunction with:


Temporal patterns in habitat use by small cetaceans at an oceanographically dynamic marine renewable energy test site in the Celtic Sea

Abstract: Shelf-seas are highly dynamic and oceanographically complex environments, which likely influences the spatio-temporal distributions of marine megafauna such as marine mammals. As such, understanding natural patterns in habitat use by these animals is essential when attempting to ascertain and assess the impacts of anthropogenically induced disturbances, such as those associated with marine renewable energy installations (MREIs). This study uses a five year (2009-2013) passive acoustics (C-POD) dataset to examine the use of an oceanographically dynamic marine renewable energy test site by small cetaceans, dolphins (unspecified delphinids) and harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena, in the southern Celtic Sea. To examine how temporal patterns in habitat use across the site related to oceanographic changes occurring over broad seasonal scales as well as those driven by fine scale (bi-weekly) localised processes (that may be masked by seasonal trends), separate analyses were conducted using (1) all daily animal detection rates spanning the entire five year dataset and (2) daily animal detection rates taken only during the summer months (defined as mid-June to mid-October) in 2010 (when continuous monitoring was carried out at multiple discrete locations across the site). In both instances, generalised additive mixed effects models (GAMMs) were used to link detection rates to a suite of environmental variables representative of the oceanography of the region. We show that increased harbour porpoise detection rates in the late winter/early spring (January-March) are associated with low sea surface temperatures (SST), whilst peaks in dolphin detection rates in the summer (July-September) coincide with increased SSTs and the presence of a tidal-mixing front. Moreover, across the summer months of 2010, dolphin detection rates were found to respond to small scale changes in SST and position in the spring-neap cycle, possibly reflective of a preference for the stratified waters immediately offshore of the front. Together, these findings suggest that habitat use by small cetaceans within shelf-seas is temporally variable, species specific and likely driven by complex bottom-up processes. As such, the effective conservation management of shelf-seas requires that we understand the dynamic complexities of these systems and the species that inhabit them. In particular, we emphasise the need for a good understanding of the natural drivers of habitat use by marine megafauna before the potential impacts of anthropogenically induced disturbances, such as those associated with the construction, maintenance and operation of MREIs, can be assessed.

Pub.: 09 Jul '16, Pinned: 28 Jul '17

Dynamic habitat corridors for marine predators; intensive use of a coastal channel by harbour seals is modulated by tidal currents.

Abstract: Previous studies have found that predators utilise habitat corridors to ambush prey moving through them. In the marine environment, coastal channels effectively act as habitat corridors for prey movements, and sightings of predators in such areas suggest that they may target these for foraging. Unlike terrestrial systems where the underlying habitat structure is generally static, corridors in marine systems are in episodic flux due to water movements created by tidal processes. Although these hydrographic features can be highly complex, there is generally a predictable underlying cyclic tidal pattern to their structure. For marine predators that must find prey that is often patchy and widely distributed, the underlying temporal predictability in potential foraging opportunities in marine corridors may be important drivers in their use. Here, we used data from land-based sightings and 19 harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) tagged with high-resolution GPS telemetry to investigate the spatial and temporal distribution patterns of seals in a narrow tidal channel. These seals showed a striking pattern in their distribution; all seals spent a high proportion of their time around the narrowest point of the channel. There was also a distinctive tidal pattern in the use of the channel; sightings of seals in the water peaked during the flood tide and were at a minimum during the ebb tide. This pattern is likely to be related to prey availability and/or foraging efficiency driven by the underlying tidal pattern in the water movements through the channel.To maximise foraging efficiency, predators often make use of narrow constrictions in habitat to intercept prey using these corridors for movement. In the marine environment, narrow channels may act as corridors, and sightings of predators suggest that they may target these for foraging. Despite this, there is little information on how individual predators use such areas. Here, we investigate how individual harbour seals use a narrow coastal channel subject to strong tidal currents; results showed that seals spent the majority of their time at the narrowest point of the channel foraging during peak tidal currents. This highlights the importance of narrow channels for marine predators and suggests that this usually wide-ranging predator may restrict its geographic range to forage in the channel as a result of increased prey availability and/or foraging efficiency driven by water movements through the narrow corridor.

Pub.: 25 Nov '16, Pinned: 28 Jul '17

Multi-scale temporal patterns in fish presence in a high-velocity tidal channel.

Abstract: The natural variation of fish presence in high-velocity tidal channels is not well understood. A better understanding of fish use of these areas would aid in predicting fish interactions with marine hydrokinetic (MHK) devices, the effects of which are uncertain but of high concern. To characterize the patterns in fish presence at a tidal energy site in Cobscook Bay, Maine, we examined two years of hydroacoustic data continuously collected at the proposed depth of an MHK turbine with a bottom-mounted, side-looking echosounder. The maximum number of fish counted per hour ranged from hundreds in the early spring to over 1,000 in the fall. Counts varied greatly with tidal and diel cycles in a seasonally changing relationship, likely linked to the seasonally changing fish community of the bay. In the winter and spring, higher hourly counts were generally confined to ebb tides and low slack tides near sunrise and sunset. In summer and fall of each year, the highest fish counts shifted to night and occurred during ebb, low slack, and flood tides. Fish counts were not linked to current speed, and did not decrease as current speed increased, contrary to observations at other tidal power sites. As fish counts may be proportional to the encounter rate of fish with an MHK turbine at the same depth, highly variable counts indicate that the risk to fish is similarly variable. The links between fish presence and environmental cycles at this site will likely be present at other locations with similar environmental forcing, making these observations useful in predicting potential fish interactions at tidal energy sites worldwide.

Pub.: 12 May '17, Pinned: 27 Jun '17