International Conference on Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation of Marine Ecosystems 2015 @ Hong Kong

1-4 June 2015

Seasonal changes in habitat use of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins at an estuary

Tzu-Hao Lin, Chia-Yun Lee, Lien-Siang Chou

Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, National Taiwan University

Tomonari Akamatsu

National Research Institute of Fisheries Engineering, Fisheries Research Agency

River estuaries are ecotone environments where freshwater and seawater mix together. Seasonal rainfall is likely to influence the salinity, turbidity, and development of estuarine fronts, thus alter the distribution of aquatic animals at an estuary. Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin is a coastal species that use estuaries as their core habitat. According to previous studies, the distribution of humpback dolphins in their estuarine habitat moved seaward during wet seasons. In addition, circling movement associated with the hunt for epipelagic fish increased during flooding tides. However, it remains unclear how seasonal rainfall influences the estuarine habitat use of humpback dolphins. During July 2009 and October 2014, acoustic data loggers were deployed at the Xin Huwei River estuary, Taiwan to record ultrasonic pulsed sounds. Biosonar clicks of humpback dolphins were detected using an automatic detection algorithm. The temporal variations of humpback dolphin behavior were investigated in terms of detection rate, occurrence pattern within the tidal cycle, echolocation behavior. The behavior of humpback dolphins significantly varied among the four monitoring sections and two periods (wet and dry seasons). The tide related occurrence was evident at the entire monitoring area during wet seasons, however, the similar occurrence pattern was only observed at the inner and outer estuary during dry seasons. In addition, long distance biosonars were much frequently detected at the inshore and offshore sections. During drought periods, the inshore and offshore sections are less likely to be influenced by the mixtures between freshwater and seawater. Our results suggest the river runoff may play an important factor in shaping the estuarine habitat use of humpback dolphins. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the interception of river runoff in the conservation management of humpback dolphins in an estuarine habitat.


New article online: Seasonal Distribution of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins at an Estuarine Habitat: Influences of Upstream Rainfall

Here is the new online article regarding the seasonal distribution change of coastal dolphins.

Seasonal Distribution of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins at an Estuarine Habitat: Influences of Upstream Rainfall

Estuaries and Coasts (2014) doi:10.1007/s12237-014-9886-2

Tzu-Hao Lin1, Tomonari Akamatsu2, 3, Lien-Siang Chou1

1Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, National Taiwan University, Number 1, Section 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei 10617, Taiwan, Republic of China 
2National Research Institute of Fisheries Engineering, Fisheries Research Agency, 7620-7 Hasaki, Kamisu, Ibaraki 314-0408, Japan
3Japan Science and Technology Agency, CREST, Sanbancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 102-0075, Japan

River estuaries are dynamic regions that are influenced by the interactions between freshwater and seawater as well as seasonal variations in river runoffs. Studies focusing on the distribution of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) have indicated their general tendency toward estuarine habitats. The seasonal activities of humpback dolphins are likely to synchronize with environmental fluctuations. This study investigated the effects of seasonal changes in river runoffs on the distribution gradient of humpback dolphins by deploying acoustic data loggers along the Xin Huwei River estuary, Western Taiwan, between July 2009 and September 2012. Seasonal shifts were observed in the areas with high detected duration of humpback dolphins, which mainly stayed near the river mouth during the dry seasons but moved seaward during rainy seasons and following heavy rainfall. In addition, the gradient of ambient ultrasonic pulses, dominated by snapping shrimp sounds, exhibited regional differences following heavy rainfall. The outward movements of the humpback dolphins and the snapping shrimp sounds in the estuary indicated a temporary trophic-system shift in response to local environmental changes resulting from high volumes of river runoffs. In the future, the seasonal variation in the distribution of humpback dolphins must be considered during the conservation management of this critically endangered population.


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