Movement patterns and habitat use by dugongs in Shark Bay
This research investigated the movement patterns of dugongs within the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, and identified habitats used by dugongs. Shark Bay contains one of the World’s most significant dugong populations, with between 10,000 to 14,000 individuals. Being at the latitudinal extremity of the dugong’s distribution, the population demonstrates large seasonal movements and shifts in habitat use, in response to changes in water temperature. Understanding these movements and the habitat requirements of the dugong is a crucial requirement for management, at both an individual and population level. The research applied PTT tracking to determine broad-scale movement patterns of individual dugongs; four animals were tracked for up to 11 months. A further 11 animals were tagged with GPS transmitters, yielding fine-scale movement patterns. High use sites in winter and spring were comprised predominantly of habitat 81-100% cover by the seagrass Amphibolis, while in summer it was predominantly Halodule uninervis habitat. The research was conducted in collaboration with members of the Shark Bay Yadgalah Aboriginal Corporation and demonstrates the need to involve the local indigenous stakeholders in research underpinning the management of dugong populations.