Prioritising areas for dugong conservation in a marine protected area using a spatially explicit population model

2016-09-27T00:21:31Z (GMT) by Grech, Alana Marsh, Helene
The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) covers an area of approximately 348,000km2 making it the world’s largest World Heritage Area / marine protected area complex. Dugongs (Dugong dugon) inhabit the shallow protected waters of the GBRWHA, and were an explicit reason for the region’s World Heritage listing. To manage dugongs effectively in the GBRWHA, it is critical to understand their spatial relationship with their environment and the human activities that threaten them. We demonstrate how a spatially explicit dugong population model can be used to prioritise conservation initiatives for dugongs in the GBRWHA. We used information collected from dugong aerial surveys in conjunction with geostatistical techniques, including universal kriging, to develop a model of dugong distribution and abundance. After completing the model, we conducted frequency analyses to categorise relative dugong density and distribution to identify areas of low, medium or high conservation value. As dugongs extend over a wide distributional range, prioritising areas of conservation value has the potential to be an important basis for administering management resources. We conclude that spatially explicit population models are an effective component of species conservation management, particularly for species that range over large, complex and dynamic regions.