Marine mammals and sonar : dose-response studies, the risk-disturbance hypothesis and the role of exposure context
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1. Marine mammals may be negatively affected by anthropogenic noise. Behavioural response studies (BRSs) aim to establish a relationship between the exposure dose of a stressor and associated behavioural responses of animals. A recent series of BRSs have focused on the effects of naval sonar on cetaceans. Here we review the current state of understanding of the impact of sonar on marine mammals and highlight knowledge gaps and future research priorities. 2. Many marine mammal species exhibit responses to naval sonar. However, responses are highly variable between and within individuals, species and populations, highlighting the importance of context in modulating dose-response relationships. 3. There is increasing support for the risk-disturbance hypothesis as an underlying response mechanism. This hypothesis proposes that sonar sounds may be perceived by animals as a threat, evoking an evolved anti-predator response. An understanding of responses within both the dose-response and risk-disturbance frameworks may enhance our ability to predict responsiveness for unstudied species and populations. 4. Many observed behavioural responses are energetically costly, but the way in which these responses may lead to long-term individual and population level impacts is poorly understood. Synthesis and Applications Behavioural response studies have greatly enhanced our understanding of the potential effects of navy sonar on marine mammals. Despite data gaps, we believe a dose-response approach within a risk-disturbance framework will enhance our ability to predict responsiveness for unstudied species and populations. We advocate for (1) regulatory frameworks to utilise recent peer-reviewed research findings when making predictions of impact (where feasible within assessment cycles), (2) regulatory frameworks to account for the inherent uncertainty in predictions of impact, and (3) investment in monitoring programmes that are both directed by recent research and offer opportunities for validation of predictions at the individual and population level.
Harris , C M , Thomas , L , Falcone , E , Hildebrand , J , Houser , D , Kvadsheim , P , Lam , F-P A , Miller , P , Moretti , D J , Read , A , Slabbekoorn , H , Southall , B L , Tyack , P L , Wartzok , D & Janik , V M 2018 , ' Marine mammals and sonar : dose-response studies, the risk-disturbance hypothesis and the role of exposure context ' Journal of Applied Ecology , vol 55 , no. 1 , pp. 396-404 . DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12955
Journal of Applied Ecology
© 2017 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This manuscript was written following the Behavioral Response Research Evaluation Workshop (BRREW), jointly sponsored by the US Office of Naval Research, US Navy Living Marine Resources, and US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - National Marine Fisheries Service. PLT acknowledges funding from the MASTS pooling initiative (The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland). MASTS is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions.
- NERC Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) Research
- Mathematics & Statistics Research
- Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences Research
- Biology Research
- Centre for Research into Ecological & Environmental Modelling (CREEM) Research
- Scottish Oceans Institute Research
- Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution Research
- University of St Andrews Research
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