Perth has distinct dolphin communities with different protection needs

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Perth dolphins
Photo: rafaelbenari – 123rf

Research at Murdoch University has identified distinct ecological communities of dolphins living in Perth waters requiring separate protection measures from anthropogenic threats.

Research lead, Dr Delphine Chabanne from Murdoch University’s Harry Butler Institute said the research—which is published in Frontiers of Marine Science—found that identifying population structure and boundaries among communities of wildlife exposed to human induced threats was vital to ensuring successful conservation management.

“Our research found that in the Perth metropolitan area, discrete communities of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins occupied different habitat such as coastal, embayment and estuarine waters,” Dr Chabanne said.

“These communities are exposed to year-round anthropogenic activities, including dredging, pile driving, recreational and commercial shipping and fisheries, environmental contaminants, and climate change.”

Each community needs to be treated as a distinct ecological unit, Dr Chabanne added, and requires different protection measures because they are exposed to different anthropogenic threats occurring in those distinct ecological habitats.

“While there are genetic similarities among all dolphins, and the dolphins mate randomly and even between communities, each social community should be considered as a distinct ecological unit to be conserved,” Dr Chabanne said.

“Each social community are exposed to different anthropogenic threats in different ecological habitats.”

An important finding of the research was that if any of the communities of dolphins become extinct, the locality of the community could be repopulated by members of one or more from the adjacent communities.

“However at a population level, the number of dolphins could decrease if the cause of one community decline and its extinction in the first place is not correctly identified and managed accordingly,” Dr Chabanne said.

“Therefore, each community should still be considered a distinct ‘ecological unit to conserve’ based on the available information on anthropogenic stressors.”

This story was sourced in News on the Murdoch University website.

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