A review of the potential effects of disturbance on sea lions: Assessing response and recovery

A review of the potential effects of disturbance on sea lions: Assessing response and recovery

L. Kucey, and A.W. Trites

A review of the potential effects of disturbance on sea lions: Assessing response and recoveryThis is part of Sea Lions of the World
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Description

Human intrusion within areas of sea lion habitat is increasing worldwide, leading to concerns about disruption of distribution and daily activities of sea lions. Sea lion responses to disturbance can be quantified by recording changes in behavioral patterns, documenting numbers of animals on shore before, during, and after the disturbance, or by measuring physiological stress of individual animals. However, assessing recovery is not so straightforward, as highlighted by an example from a study of the short-term effects of disturbance on Steller sea lions. Recovery is
generally recognized as a return to an original state or normal condition, but is often operationally defined as a percent-return to pre-disturbance numbers or behaviors. Simple interpretation of disturbance effects can be easily confounded by concurrent natural seasonal changes in behaviors or haul-out patterns, or by daily variability in numbers of animals present that can be attributed to weather, tidal cycle stage, and other factors. Overall, a range of recovery criteria needs to be simultaneously applied when assessing the effects of human disturbance on sea lion populations. Insights gained from research on the effects of disturbance on Steller sea lions may help guide the development of studies undertaken on other species of sea lions.

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