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Ecoregional and temporal dynamics of dugong habitat use in a complex coral reef lagoon ecosystem

Derville, S., Cleguer, C. and Garrigue, C. (2022) Ecoregional and temporal dynamics of dugong habitat use in a complex coral reef lagoon ecosystem. Scientific Reports, 12 (1). Art. 552.

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Abstract

Mobile marine species display complex and nonstationary habitat use patterns that require understanding to design effective management measures. In this study, the spatio-temporal habitat use dynamics of the vulnerable dugong (Dugong dugon) were modelled from 16 satellite-tagged individuals in the coral reef lagoonal ecosystems of New Caledonia, South Pacific. Dugong residence time was calculated along the interpolated tracks (9371 hourly positions) to estimate intensity of use in three contrasting ecoregions, previously identified through hierarchical clustering of lagoon topographic characteristics. Across ecoregions, differences were identified in dugong spatial intensity of use of shallow waters, deeper lagoon waters and the fore-reef shelf outside the barrier reef. Maps of dugong intensity of use were predicted from these ecological relationships and validated with spatial density estimates derived from aerial surveys conducted for population assessment. While high correlation was found between the two datasets, our study extended the spatial patterns of dugong distribution obtained from aerial surveys across the diel cycle, especially in shallow waters preferentially used by dugongs at night/dusk during high tide. This study has important implications for dugong conservation and illustrates the potential benefits of satellite tracking and dynamic habitat use modelling to inform spatial management of elusive and mobile marine mammals.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Springer Nature
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/63639
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