Marine mammal hotspots across the circumpolar Arctic

Diversity and Distributions
By: , and 




Identify hotspots and areas of high species richness for Arctic marine mammals.


Circumpolar Arctic.


A total of 2115 biologging devices were deployed on marine mammals from 13 species in the Arctic from 2005 to 2019. Getis-Ord Gi* hotspots were calculated based on the number of individuals in grid cells for each species and for phylogenetic groups (nine pinnipeds, three cetaceans, all species) and areas with high species richness were identified for summer (Jun-Nov), winter (Dec-May) and the entire year. Seasonal habitat differences among species’ hotspots were investigated using Principal Component Analysis.


Hotspots and areas with high species richness occurred within the Arctic continental-shelf seas and within the marginal ice zone, particularly in the “Arctic gateways” of the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Summer hotspots were generally found further north than winter hotspots, but there were exceptions to this pattern, including bowhead whales in the Greenland-Barents Seas and species with coastal distributions in Svalbard, Norway and East Greenland. Areas with high species richness generally overlapped high-density hotspots. Large regional and seasonal differences in habitat features of hotspots were found among species but also within species from different regions. Gap analysis (discrepancy between hotspots and IUCN ranges) identified species and regions where more research is required.

Main conclusions

This study identified important areas (and habitat types) for Arctic marine mammals using available biotelemetry data. The results herein serve as a benchmark to measure future distributional shifts. Expanded monitoring and telemetry studies are needed on Arctic species to understand the impacts of climate change and concomitant ecosystem changes (synergistic effects of multiple stressors). While efforts should be made to fill knowledge gaps, including regional gaps and more complete sex and age coverage, hotspots identified herein can inform management efforts to mitigate the impacts of human activities and ecological changes, including creation of protected areas.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Marine mammal hotspots across the circumpolar Arctic
Series title Diversity and Distributions
DOI 10.1111/ddi.13543
Volume 28
Issue 12
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB
Description 25 p.
First page 2729
Last page 2753
Other Geospatial Arctic
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details