Arctic Marine Data Collection Using Oceanic Gliders: Providing Ecological Context to Cetacean Vocalizations
To achieve effective management and understanding of risks associated with increasing anthropogenic pressures in the ocean, it is essential to successfully and efficiently collect data with high spatio–temporal resolution and coverage. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are an example of technological advances with potential to provide improved information on ocean processes. We demonstrate the capabilities of a low-power AUV buoyancy glider for performing long endurance biological and environmental data acquisition in Northern Norway. We deployed a passive acoustic sensor system onboard a SeagliderTM to investigate presence and distribution of cetaceans while concurrently using additional onboard sensors for recording environmental features (temperature, salinity, pressure, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll a). The hydrophone recorded over 108.6 h of acoustic data during the spring months of March and April across the continental shelf break and detected both baleen and odontocete species. We observed a change in cetacean detections throughout the survey period, with humpback whale calls dominating the soundscape in the first weeks of deployment, coinciding with the migration toward their breeding grounds. From mid-April, sperm whales and delphinids were the predominant species, which coincided with increasing chlorophyll a fluorescence values associated with the spring phytoplankton blooms. Finally, we report daily variations in background noise associated with fishing activities and traffic in the nearby East Atlantic shipping route. Our results show that gliders provide excellent platforms for collecting information about ecosystems with minimal disturbance to animals, allowing systematic observations of our ocean biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics in response to natural variations and industrial activities.