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Effects of nature-based tourism and environmental drivers on the demography of a small dolphin population

AuthorsPérez-Jorge, Sergi; Gomes, Inés; Hayes, Kirsty; Corti, Graham; Louzao, Maite; Genovart, Meritxell ; Oro, Daniel
KeywordsEnvironmental conditions
Coastal dolphins
Western Indian Ocean
Robust design demography
Tourist exposure
Issue DateMay-2016
CitationBiological Conservation 197: 200- 208 (2016)
AbstractMany marine top predators are experiencing significant declines due to anthropogenic impacts, and therefore reliable monitoring is essential to understand their population dynamics. We used Pollock's robust design capture–recapture modelling to assess the influence of oceanographic variables, artisanal fisheries and human disturbance on several demographic parameters (abundance, temporary emigration and survival) of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus), using long-term data on marked individuals from East Africa. Photo-identification data was collected over 551 boat-based surveys between 2006 and 2009, with 137 individuals identified. Our best fitting model indicated that exposure to tourism (represented by the number of tourist boats) increased the probability of dolphins seasonally emigrating from the study area. The return rate of temporary emigrants was negatively linked to the seasonal sea surface temperature, probably associated with food availability. That model supported the existence of heterogeneity in annual local survival estimates, with transient dolphins showing a lower value than resident individuals (0.78 and 0.98, respectively). Furthermore, abundance estimates showed a small population size ranging from 19 individuals (95% CI: 11–33) to a maximum of 104 dolphins (95% CI: 78–139). This small population, together with their high site fidelity and coastal distribution, might be particularly vulnerable to human disturbances. This study highlights the influence of environmental and anthropogenic factors on dolphin demography and population dynamics and the need to integrate these drivers to provide robust evidences for conservation stakeholders in an adaptive management framework.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.03.006
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.03.006
issn: 0006-3207
Appears in Collections:(IMEDEA) Artículos
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