Reconstructing Baselines for the Persian Gulf Dugong

Retrospective estimates of historic abundances and distributions of marine organisms are crucial to understanding the anthropogenic impacts on the structure and species of coastal ecosystems, especially in the case of vulnerable species such as the Dugong (Dugong dugon). The Persian/Arabian Gulf is home to the second largest Dugong population in the world, yet little is known about their current or past abundance, distribution, and ecological role. Here, we examine historical changes in dugong distribution and estimate perceived changes in their abundance. We create a ‘dugong discovery curve’ and compile global density estimates as proxies for the overall health of the population in the Gulf. We find that since 1950 dugong range may have contracted by one quarter, and despite their large population, their overall densities in the Gulf are far lower than in other areas within their range. Basic understanding of historical trajectories for Dugongs is needed in order to develop appropriate management plans and conservation targets, particularly in light of large and wide-spread coastal development projects in the region.

Al-Abdulrazzak, D. and D. Pauly. 2017. Reconstructing historical baselines for the Persian/Arabian Gulf Dugong, Dugong dugon. Zoology in the Middle East.

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