Change of whale shark habitat suitability in the Sunda Plate, Southeast Asia

Authors: Carlos A. Morales-Ramirez*, National University of Singapore
Topics: Coastal and Marine, Biogeography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: habitat suitability, MaxEnt, whale shark, Sunda Plate, species distribution model
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom C, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The whale shark is a globally endangered species known to have high occurrence in tropical and warm temperate waters. Research suggests that its distribution is affected by climate change in the future. This study uses Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) to model the species’ current and future habitat suitability in order to calculate change and highlight potential areas of conservation. Presence data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature along with environment variables – bathymetry, mean sea surface temperature, mean surface air temperature, salinity, and measure of acidity – were used as input to model whale shark habitat suitability in the Sunda Tectonic Plate in Southeast Asia. The environmental data were for current climate and future climate change under the Intergovernmental Plan on Climate Change’s scenarios A1B, A2 and B1 for the year 2100. The current and future MaxEnt outputs were transferred to ArcMap to calculate the absolute change between the models. The results showed the current habitat suitability was similar to the occurrence data used for the modelling. Under the all future climate change scenario for the year 2100, the habitat suitability shifted to the central coastal areas of the islands. The MaxEnt model suggests that the environmental variable that contribute most significantly to the final output are chlorophyll A. Future conservation efforts can be directed to the coastal areas of Southeast Asian countries, specifically in the central islands of the Philippines, where all the models showed the highest area of habitat suitability.

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