FIGURE 3-1 The conceptual Population Consequences of Acoustic Disturbance model describes several stages required to relate acoustic disturbance to effects on a marine mammal population. Five groups of variables are of interest, and transfer functions specify the relationships between the variables listed, for example, how sounds of a given frequency affect the vocalization rate of a given species of marine mammal under specified conditions. Each box lists variables with observable features (sound, behavior change, life function affected, vital rates, and population effect). In most cases, the causal mechanisms of responses are not known. For example, survival is included as one of the life functions that could be affected to account for such situations as the beaked whale strandings, in which it is generally agreed that exposure to sound leads to death. The causal steps between reception of sound and death are by no means known or agreed on, but the result is clear. The “+” signs at the bottoms of the boxes indicate how well the variables can be measured. The indicators between boxes show how well the “black box” nature of the transfer functions is understood; these indicators scale from “+++” (well known and easily observed) to “0” (unknown).

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