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How many dugongs could the seagrass habitats of the urban coast of Queensland support? support? How many dugongs could the seagrass habitats of the urban.

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Presentation on theme: "How many dugongs could the seagrass habitats of the urban coast of Queensland support? support? How many dugongs could the seagrass habitats of the urban."— Presentation transcript:

1 How many dugongs could the seagrass habitats of the urban coast of Queensland support? support? How many dugongs could the seagrass habitats of the urban coast of Queensland support? support? Helene Marsh, Glenn De’ath, Neil Gribble, Baden Lane Part of dugong herd in Moreton Bay near Brisbane in 2003 Amanda Hodgson

2 Marine Parks of urban coast of Queensland - > 280,000 km 2 of multiple use marine parks > 75,000 km 2 of no-take MPA > 8,000 km 2 of Dugong Protection Areas politically controversial realistic recovery targets required

3 Recovery target extrapolated from historical anecdotes Jackson et al’s population estimate of 1.1 to 3 million dugongs for entire east coast of Queensland in 1890s(Science 2001) touted as realistic recovery target and evidence that Moreton Bay 2/3 way to Ecological Extinction (Pandolfi et al. Science 2003) Contemporary photograph of dugongs in Moreton Bay

4 Methodology Determine rate of decline of dugong population 1960s – 1990s using change in CPUE in shark nets Estimate 1990s dugong population using aerial survey Use shark net decline to hindcast 1990s population estimate to 1960s Calculate whether current seagrass meadows could support hindcast population by: –estimating time required for dugongs to consume seagrass once –comparing this estimate with time required for seagrass to recover from dugong grazing taking account of all sources of uncertainty and variability in data

5 Queensland Shark Protection Program nets at 47 beaches at 10 locations

6 Dugong by-catch in the shark nets declined at rate of 8.7% (95% CI = 7.1, 10.6) p.a. to 3.1% (1.4, 6.1) of initial catch rates by 1999

7 Aerial surveys to estimate dugong numbers in 1990s

8 A target for recovery? Aerial composite population estimate of 4220 (95% CI 2360, 8360) in 1990s Assuming decline in dugong CPUE in shark nets represented change in population Dugong population estimated to be (95% CI 31000, ) dugongs in the early 1960s

9 Captive dugongs gain weight on kg wet weight seagrass per day

10 Dugongs generally dig up whole seagrass plants

11 Time depth recorders show dugongs rarely feed in >15m

12 km 2 seagrass < 15 m in region including species which are not preferred food of dugongs Data from McKenzie et al. and Abal and Dennison Photograph by Jane Mellors off Townsville C-Bar Have a drink and watch the dugongs!

13 Mean seagrass biomass per meadow in region 5-12 g dry weight m 2

14 Which hindcast population estimate could be supported today? Estimated number of dugongs in 1960 Minimum number of days Maximum number of days 31, , , million1.58.5

15 How long does it take for seagrass to recover from dugong grazing? Observational and experimental studies suggest: < days (clear water ~27 o S) several months -year turbid water 18 o S

16 Which hindcast population estimate could be supported today? Estimated number of dugongs in 1960 Minimum number of days Maximum number of days 31, , , million1.58.5

17 Conclusions Current carrying capacity probably < 30,000 dugongs Jackson et al’s (2001) estimate of 1.1 to 3 million dugongs unrealistic recovery target Improved estimates of carrying capacity of seagrass meadows for dugongs required for realistic recovery targets Come to the Workshop next Thursday!


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