The current population of Dugongs is about 40,000 and that number is continuing to decline, mostly due to their very slow reproduction rate. Severe weather along the coast of Australia which has greatly damaged the Great Barrier Reef, which is where the highest population of Dugong's live. There has also been a drop in the amount of seagrass feeding grounds in the past couple of years which has also lead to the endangerment of Dugongs.
Ecosystem and Biodiversity:
Dugong's require coastal areas, shallow to medium deep, warm waters, and seagrass beds. They are particularly low fiber species. Dugongs show great variability in movement patterns and migration, depending on the study area and the influence of seasonal temperature or rainfall on regional ecosystems. There are many long-distance movements by Dugongs along the Queensland coast that have been well-documented, even though Dugongs do not appear to undertake regular migrations and individual movements are individualistic. They live in Marine systems, generally shallow waters, and there movements resemble a nomadic lifestyle.
Dugong's play an important ecological role in coastal marine ecosystems, and the status of Dugong populations in an area can be used as an indicator of general ecosystem health. Their intense grazing of seagrass beds contributes to nutrient cycling and energy flow as they stir up sediment. Their fecal matter also acts as a fertilizer, which helps seagrass to quickly replenish. However, this intense grazing also reduces habitats and nurseries for important commercial fish species and other invertebrates which live in seagrass beds.
Dugong feeding on seagrass
Dugongs are covered under three international conservation conventions: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Dugongs are also included in the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), goal five (Threatened Species). Additionally, the Convention on Wetlands (the Ramsar Convention) protects some important Dugong habitats. Some protected sites for Dugongs have been established, particularly off the coast of Australia. These areas contain seagrass beds and optimal environments for Dugongs, such as shallow water and areas in which to give birth.
- Marsh, H. & Sobtzick, S. 2015. Dugong dugon. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T6909A43792211. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T6909A43792211.en. Downloaded on 04 January 2017.
- Marsh, Helene. "Aerial Survey Shows Dugong Decline." Aerial Survey Shows Dugong Decline | NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub. National Environmental Research Program, 2012. Web. 04 Jan. 2017.
- "Working Together Today for a Healthier Reef Tomorrow..." Dugong - GBRMPA. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 2016. Web. 04 Jan. 2017.