50 Years of Cetacean Strandings Reveal a Concerning Rise in Chilean Patagonia

Mario Alvarado-Rybak, Frederick Toro, Joaquín Escobar-Dodero, Amy C. Kinsley, Maximiliano A. Sepúlveda, Juan Capella, Claudio Azat, Galaxia Cortés-Hinojosa, Natalia Zimin-Veselkoff, Fernando O. Mardones

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Abstract

Cetacean strandings (CS) have been reported in increasing numbers in coastal areas worldwide. Although the causes of these strandings are unknown, a number of anthropogenic and environmental factors have been suggested. This paper aims to characterize CS patterns and describe their fine-scale spatiotemporal dynamics. We analysed spatial and spatiotemporal CS patterns in Chile from January 1968 to January 2020. We identified a total of 389 CS events affecting eight cetacean families, 21 genera, and 35 species, which represent more than 85% of the reported species richness for the country. Most CS events (94.1%) were single (i.e., ≤two individuals). There were also 18 mass stranding (three to 24 individuals, 4.1%) and nine unusually large mass stranding events (>25 individuals, 2%). Purely spatial tests showed CS events appearing in random occurrence along the Chilean coast. Local tests for spatio-temporal clusters, however, identified a greater number of hotspots reported in the southernmost part of the country, namely, Chilean Patagonia. Specifically, significant spatio-temporal clusters were identified and defined as containing three or more individuals within a two-month period as a focal coastal event (<1 km radius). It is a cause of concern that CS events in Chile have been increasing consistently over the last decades, and although we were not able to identify their causes, we are able to highlight the importance of changes in climate conditions and of an increase in monitoring activities as primary drivers for such patterns, particularly important in Chilean Patagonia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9511
JournalScientific reports
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

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    Alvarado-Rybak, M., Toro, F., Escobar-Dodero, J., Kinsley, A. C., Sepúlveda, M. A., Capella, J., Azat, C., Cortés-Hinojosa, G., Zimin-Veselkoff, N., & Mardones, F. O. (2020). 50 Years of Cetacean Strandings Reveal a Concerning Rise in Chilean Patagonia. Scientific reports, 10(1), [9511]. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-66484-x