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Use of the Robust Design to estimate seasonal abundance and demographic parameters of a coastal bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) population

Smith, H.C., Pollock, K., Waples, K., Bradley, S. and Bejder, L. (2013) Use of the Robust Design to estimate seasonal abundance and demographic parameters of a coastal bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) population. PLoS ONE, 8 (10). e76574.

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As delphinid populations become increasingly exposed to human activities we rely on our capacity to produce accurate abundance estimates upon which to base management decisions. This study applied mark-recapture methods following the Robust Design to estimate abundance, demographic parameters, and temporary emigration rates of an Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) population off Bunbury, Western Australia. Boat-based photo-identification surveys were conducted year-round over three consecutive years along pre-determined transect lines to create a consistent sampling effort throughout the study period and area. The best fitting capture-recapture model showed a population with a seasonal Markovian temporary emigration with time varying survival and capture probabilities. Abundance estimates were seasonally dependent with consistently lower numbers obtained during winter and higher during summer and autumn across the three-year study period. Specifically, abundance estimates for all adults and juveniles (combined) varied from a low of 63 (95% CI 59 to 73) in winter of 2007 to a high of 139 (95% CI 134 to148) in autumn of 2009. Temporary emigration rates (γ') for animals absent in the previous period ranged from 0.34 to 0.97 (mean = 0.54; ±SE 0.11) with a peak during spring. Temporary emigration rates for animals present during the previous period (γ') were lower, ranging from 0.00 to 0.29, with a mean of 0.16 (± SE 0.04). This model yielded a mean apparent survival estimate for juveniles and adults (combined) of 0.95 (± SE 0.02) and a capture probability from 0.07 to 0.51 with a mean of 0.30 (± SE 0.04). This study demonstrates the importance of incorporating temporary emigration to accurately estimate abundance of coastal delphinids. Temporary emigration rates were high in this study, despite the large area surveyed, indicating the challenges of sampling highly mobile animals which range over large spatial areas.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Notes: his is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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