Author(s): A Canadas, R Sagarminaga, S GarcaTiscar
The northeastern section of the Alboran Sea is currently under consideration as a Special Area for Conservation under the European Union’s Habitat Directive. Within this framework, the present study focuses on the distribution of cetaceans in this area and is part of the Spanish Ministry of the Environment’s ‘‘Program for the Identification of Areas of Special Interest for the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Spanish Mediterranean’’. Shipboard visual surveys were conducted in 1992 and from 1995 to 2001 in the north-eastern Alboran Sea, covering 14,409 km. A total of 1,134 sightings of cetaceans were made. From the data collected, the distribution of seven species of odontocete was examined with respect to two physiographic variables, water depth and slope. Analyses of w2 and fitting of GLMs demonstrated significant differences in distribution for all species, mainly with respect to depth. Kruskal–Wallis tests, factor analysis and discriminant function analysis showed that the species could be classified in two major groups, shallow-waters (short-beaked common dolphin and bottlenose dolphin) and deep-waters (striped dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, long-finned pilot whale, sperm whale and beaked whale), respectively. Preferred habitats in terms of water depth were areas deeper than 600 m for the deep-water group, and the shallower ranges from shore to 400 m for the other. The distribution of cetaceans was further matched with that of their most common prey in order to establish which habitats could be considered important for their feeding. The resulting analysis highlighted two areas in the region as important habitats for the conservation of the most vulnerable species in the Mediterranean, the bottlenose and the common dolphin. r 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.