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Baseline Wildlife Studies Offshore of Maryland
Baseline Wildlife Studies Offshore of Maryland

The Mid-Atlantic Baseline Studies survey efforts were extended in 2013-14 into waters offshore of Maryland. These projects provide essential baseline information on wildlife distributions and habitat use in federal waters off the mid-Atlantic coast.

Lead Investigator: Kate Williams

Download Wildlife Studies Offshore of Maryland. This 8-page summary publication represents an overview of results from the final technical report for the Maryland-focused study, and features survey results and case studies on marine mammals, sea turtles, and wintering seabirds. The Executive Summary for the technical report is also available here.

Additional results and case studies can be found in the 32-page synthesis report for the mid-Atlantic regional study, Mid-Atlantic Wildlife Studies: Distribution and Abundance of Wildlife along the Eastern Seaboard, 2012-2014.

 

The Mid-Atlantic Baseline Studies and Maryland Projects

In early 2012, we began a three-year project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, to provide essential baseline information on animal distributions and habitat use on a regional scale in federal waters off the mid-Atlantic coast. In 2013, the boat and digital video aerial survey efforts were extended off the coast of Maryland. Data were integrated from multiple study components and from both projects in order to present a comprehensive view of wildlife distribution and movement patterns offshore of Maryland.

 

Ecosystem Background

Waters offshore of Maryland’s Atlantic coast are important for many species year-round, including breeding, nonbreeding, and migration periods. Baseline knowledge of wildlife distributions and habitat use is key to understanding conservation and management needs. For more information about the regional offshore ecosystem, click here.
 

Study Methods

We conducted boat-based surveys and high resolution digital video aerial surveys to document animal distributions, abundance, and habitat use in the mid-Atlantic study area. We used several methods to analyze and present the results for the Maryland study.

During the second year of the MABS project, existing surveys were expanded offshore of Maryland. Transect lines for boat surveys off of Maryland were extended into state waters, and digital video aerial transects were expanded into areas west and south of the Maryland WEA. An additional aerial survey in Maryland waters was conducted in 2013.

 
The study areas for the Maryland and Mid-Atlantic Baseline Studies projects, including Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) and aerial and boat survey transects. The Maryland study area includes data from both the regional and state-focused projects. Fine scale aerial transects were carried out within the WEAs, as well as offshore of Maryland as part of the state-focused study.
The study areas for the Maryland and Mid-Atlantic Baseline Studies projects, including Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) and aerial and boat survey transects. The Maryland study area includes data from both the regional and state-focused projects. Fine scale aerial transects were carried out within the WEAs, as well as offshore of Maryland as part of the state-focused study.
 

Overall Results

On the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Maryland, we found strong seasonal variation in habitat characteristics, as well as in species presence and distributions. A variety of taxa use this region during spring and fall migration. Many of these species are year-round or part-time residents that use the area for foraging during the breeding season, or foraging, roosting, or other activities during nonbreeding periods.
 

Case Studies

We examined sea turtles and wintering seabirds in more depth by integrating results from multiple study efforts to present a comprehensive view of wildlife distribution and movement patterns.

 

Study Summary and Implications

This study indicated that the mid-Atlantic region is used by many species during breeding or nonbreeding periods. We found that study methods and analytical approaches influence the resulting wildlife distribution data. Areas near the mouths of Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay had high diversity and abundance of animals throughout the year. Offshore areas were important migratory routes for many avian and aquatic taxa. Species-specific responses to environmental factors varied widely, and there were strong seasonal and interannual variations in community composition and wildlife distributions observed.
 

Project Team and Funding

Lead and Co-Primary Investigators and Partners: Evan AdamsDavid EversAndrew GilbertSarah JohnsonIain StenhouseKate Williams (BRI); Richard Veit (City University of New York); Holly GoyertNathan HostetterRahel Sollmann (North Carolina State University); David Johnston and Logan Pallin (Duke University); Ari Friedlaender (Oregon State University)

Contributing BRI Staff: Emily ConnellyMelissa DuronWing GoodaleRobby Lambert

Collaborators: This project was completed in collaboration with the following organizations: North Carolina State University, the City University of New York (CUNY), Duke University Marine Laboratory, Oregon State University, HiDef Aerial Surveying, Ltd., and Capt. Brian Patteson.

Funding: This effort was supported by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Energy Administration under Contract Number 14-13-1653 MEA. Additional funding support came from the Department of Energy under Award Number DE-EE0005362.

 

For More Information

Please refer to the final report for the Maryland Project for more information.

 

Disclaimers: This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources or the Maryland Energy Administration. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the State.

 

 
Photo Credits: Header image © Dan Poleschook
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