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Marine Life & Conservation

Dolphin Whistles Could Aid Conservation Efforts

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A team of researchers in Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Britain and the United States has demonstrated that remotely monitoring the acoustical structures of dolphin vocalizations can effectively detect “evolutionarily significant units” of the mammal — distinct populations that may be tracked for prioritizing and planning conservation efforts.

This finding, which has been presented this week at the 167th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Providence, Rhode Island, suggests that placing remote acoustical monitoring platforms on ocean buoys and the like may be a viable, low-cost and automated way of monitoring populations of dolphins and rapidly alerting ecologists to the threats that confront them.

“Acoustical changes can be used for constant and continuous monitoring of population belonging to endangered species,” said Elena Papale of the University of Torino, who led the research. “We found that [by remotely monitoring dolphin whistles], it is possible to distinguish between evolutionary significant units.”

The discovery emerged from a large, multinational collaboration that pulled together data from five research groups based in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Britain and France. Those groups were already monitoring dolphins for a number of existing scientific studies. Other groups in the United States collaborated by providing sound analysis equipment. Shepherding all these groups of people and the flood of data they produced was a challenge, Papale said, but the greater challenge was working out how to distinguish the flood of whistles from one group of dolphins from another.

Animal vocalizations have acoustic characteristics that reflect an organism’s genes, its adaptation to ecological conditions and the interactions between their genes and the environment. The differences between groups of dolphins within the same species may be slight and hard to detect however, because morphological features, ecological conditions and socio-behavioral aspects of the creatures influence the structure of whistle. The problem is also a dynamic one, since vocalizations may vary in short time scale.

So at the start of the research, it was not clear whether acoustical analyses alone would be able to tease apart the common threads for given groups of dolphins and differentiate between them.

Papale and her colleagues compared 123 sightings of three dolphin species from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea (Stenella coeruleoalba, Delphinus delphis and Tursiops truncatus). They analyzed whistles from 49 hours of audio recordings made at the same time as the sightings and tested whether they could definitively identify dolphin populations by analyzing the acoustical parameters of the whistles.

This allowed them to correctly assign more that 82 percent of data to the correct dolphin population, based solely on the acoustic structure, a proof of principle that the acoustic structure of whistles can be used to monitor recent or rapid changes in the local population biology.

“More work is still needed to develop an automatic system for population recognition,” Papale said. She added that other research groups are focusing on the development of software but for the moment only for species-specific identification, not intra-specific recognition.

 

Source: www.sciencedaily.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Blue Marine Foundation launches new partnership with Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance

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Ocean charity makes initial grant of $90,000 to marine parks on six Dutch Caribbean islands. Award will fund projects including coral protection, and training youth marine rangers.

Ocean conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation has announced it is awarding $90,000 in funding to support marine conservation in the Dutch Caribbean. A range of projects run by protected area management organisations on six islands will each receive a grant of $15,000. The funding is the first step in a longer-term partnership to support the islands and help secure sustainable financing through the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) Trust fund.

To improve ocean governance, Blue Marine uses a combination of top-down intervention and bottom-up project delivery to help local communities at the front line of conservation. It will work together with the DCNA to help marine-park organisations protect the unique and threatened biodiversity of the Dutch Caribbean.

The new partnership is an important development in the successful management of marine conservation parks in the Dutch Caribbean. The UK-based charity has established a small-grants fund to provide rapid access to support for critical conservation projects run by marine parks.

The individual projects and their local partners are:

Unique ecosystems on the islands are vulnerable to threats such as feral livestock causing sedimentation on reefs, and invasive species, including lionfish and coral diseases. They are also at risk from overfishing, climate change, coastal development, erosion and the build-up of harmful algae caused by waste water.

The islands of the Dutch Caribbean are also home to important “blue carbon” habitats – ocean ecosystems such as seagrasses, mangroves and other marine plants that suck up and lock away carbon from the earth’s atmosphere. Seagrass is so efficient at this it can capture and store carbon dioxide up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.  The management and protection of these blue carbon habitats is vital in the fight against climate change.

Current marine conservation measures in the islands include a 25,390 square km mammal and shark sanctuary- Yarari sanctuary- across the Exclusive Economic Zone of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. All six islands have inshore Marine Protected Areas ranging in size from 10 to 60 sq km.

Blue Marine’s Senior Project Manager Jude Brown commented: “Having recently visited two of the islands, I witnessed first-hand how special this region is. Diving the waters off Saba I saw huge Tarpon swimming amongst shoals of blue tang, and hawksbill turtles feeding on the seagrass beds. I also witnessed the challenges these islands are facing from coral disease to issues with coastal development. It is an exciting opportunity to work in the Dutch Caribbean, bringing expertise and funding from Blue Marine to join with the wealth of knowledge already on the islands, to work together to protect the important marine life arounds these islands.”

Tadzio Bervoets, Director of the DNCA commented: “The Dutch Caribbean consists of the Windward Islands of St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius and the Leeward Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The nature of the Dutch Caribbean contains the richest biodiversity in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The diverse ecosystems are a magnet for tourism and at the same time the most important source of income for residents of the Dutch Caribbean. Nature on the islands is unique and important but it is also fragile. The coming week we will be in The Netherlands to present a Climate Action Plan for the Dutch Caribbean to emphasize the urgent need for a climate smart future for our islands.”


Photo: Coral reefs in the Dutch Caribbean- Photo credit: Naturepics: Y.+T. Kühnast- all rights reserved

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Marine Life & Conservation

CCMI announces launch of two key projects, supported by RESEMBID

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Building Resilient Reefs

Project title: Increasing Coral Reef Resilience with Assisted Evolution via Selective Restoration

Via this recently awarded RESEMBID grant, funded by the European Union, CCMI aims to rebuild coral reef ecosystem resilience through cutting-edge restoration techniques. The project will develop assisted evolution methods via selective restoration with stress (heat and disease) tolerant corals, to promote and sustain biodiversity of these threatened ecosystems.

This project will build on CCMI’s past research, incorporating our understanding of coral restoration disease resistance and outplanting methodology, while conducting state of the art experimentation to assess thermal tolerance, all of which will be used to increase the resilience of coral reefs through advanced restoration practices. Visiting collaborator Dr. John Bruno (Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), will be joining the team in the field in April 2022 and will also be present for the press conference. Outcomes from the work will include improved restoration strategies that will be shared regionally – seeking to ultimately increase coral resilience throughout the Caribbean. A short project overview will be given, including the opportunity for Q&As. The press conference will then be followed by a Reef Lecture by Dr John Bruno on the wider threats to global coral reef health.

https://reefresearch.org/what-we-do/research/restoration/


Adapting to COVID-19

Project Title: Urgent technical assistance to support CCMI’s capacity to be a regional leader in protecting marine biodiversity and improving resilience.

This project is supported by a RESEMBID grant, funded by the European Union, which will enable CCMI to manage the impacts of COVID-19 by improving health and safety features of the facilities infrastructure and adapting emergency management processes. The grant will support enhanced operational resilience, thereby supporting CCMI’s continued work on improving and protecting marine biodiversity in the Cayman Islands and wider Overseas Territories.

https://reefresearch.org/who-we-are/field-station/adapting-to-covid-19/

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