Cetacean habitat modelling to inform conservation management, marine spatial planning, and as a basis for anthropogenic threat mitigation in Indonesia

Sahri, Achmad; Herwata Putra, Mochamad Iqbal; Kusuma Mustika, Putu Liza; Kreb, Danielle; Murk, Albertinka J.


Indonesia harbours a high diversity of cetaceans, yet effective conservation is hampered by a lack of knowledge about cetacean spatial distribution and habitat preferences. This study aimed to address this knowledge gap at an adequate resolution to support national cetacean conservation and management planning. Maximum Entropy (Maxent) modelling was used to map the distribution of 15 selected cetacean species in seven areas within Indonesian waters using recent cetacean presence datasets as well as environmental predictors (topographic and oceanographic variables). We then combined the individual species suitable habitat maps and overlaid them with provincial marine spatial planning (MSP) jurisdictions, marine protected areas (MPAs), oil and gas contract areas, and marine traffic density. Our results reflect a great heterogeneity in distribution among species and within species among different locations. This heterogeneity reflects an interrelated influence of topographic variables and oceanographic processes on the distribution of cetacean species. Bathymetry, distance to- coast and the −200m isobaths, and chlorophyll-a concentration and sea surface temperature were important variables influencing distribution of most species in many regions. Areas rich in species were mainly related to coastal areas or insular-reef complexity, representing high productivity and upwelling-modified waters. Although some important suitable habitats currently fall within MPAs, other areas are not and overlap with oil and gas exploration activities and marine traffic, indicating potentially high risk areas for cetaceans. The results of this study can support national cetacean conservation and management planning, and be used to reduce or avoid adverse anthropogenic threats. We advise to consider currently unprotected suitable cetacean habitats in MPA and MSP development.