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Altimetry helps understand the behavior of marine animals

Philippe Gaspar(1) and Jean-Yves Georges(2)

(1) CLS, 8-10 rue Hermes, 31520 Ramonville, France
(2) CNRS/CEPE, 23 rue Becquerel, 67087 Strasbourg , France


Understanding how marine animals utilize, and are constrained by, their oceanic environment is critically needed to devise sound management strategies for marine ecosystems threatened by climate changes and direct anthropogenic pressure. To this aim, a large number of marine animals are now electronically tracked and their trajectories are scrutinized by marine biologist attempting to understand their behavior.

But trajectories record the combined effects of the animal’s own motion and the motion of the surrounding fluid (drift). Without altimetry providing synoptic current estimates, the two motion components could not be separated.

In this paper we review recent findings obtained by using altimeter-derived ocean currents to process marine animal tracking data. They show that currents can substantially distort the observed trajectories and affect very important results deduced from track analyses such as inferences on the animal’s orientation skills, energy budget, distribution of travelling and foraging periods, etc…

Altimetry is thus becoming an indispensable tool in marine ecology !

Paper submitted in the session

"15-year altimetric record: challenges and achievements" Sub-theme : interesting/unexpected results !


Workshop presentation


                 Last modified: 07.10.03