Knowledge of the relationships between environmental forcing and demographic parameters is important for predicting responses from climatic changes and to manage populations effectively. We explore the relationships between the proportion of sea cows (Dugong dugon) classified as calves and four climatic drivers (rainfall anomaly, Southern Oscillation El Niño Index [SOI], NINO 3.4 sea surface temperature index, and number of tropical cyclones) at a range of spatially distinct locations in Queensland, Australia, a region with relatively high dugong density. Dugong and calf data were obtained from standardized aerial surveys conducted along the study region. A range of lagged versions of each of the focal climatic drivers (1 to 4 years) were included in a global model containing the proportion of calves in each population crossed with each of the lagged versions of the climatic drivers to explore relationships. The relative influence of each predictor was estimated via Gibbs variable selection. The relationships between the proportion of dependent calves and the climatic drivers varied spatially and temporally, with climatic drivers influencing calf counts at sub-regional scales. Thus we recommend that the assessment of and management response to indirect climatic threats on dugongs should also occur at sub-regional scales.
Full reference: Fuentes MMPB, Delean S, Grayson J, Lavender S, Logan M, Marsh H (2016) Spatial and Temporal Variation in the Effects of Climatic Variables on Dugong Calf Production. PLoS ONE 11(6): e0155675. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155675.