ESR 4:309-331 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00073

Abundance and habitat preferences of the short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis in the southwestern Mediterranean: implications for conservation

A. Cañadas1,*, P. S. Hammond2

1ALNITAK & SEC, Nalón 16, 28240 Hoyo de Manzanares, Madrid, Spain
2Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK

ABSTRACT: The Mediterranean sub-population of short-beaked common dolphin is believed to have suffered a steep decline in the Mediterranean in recent years, and in 2003 it was listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Effective conservation will depend critically on our understanding of the relationship between the species and its habitats. The Alborán Sea is believed to be the most important remaining Mediterranean habitat for this species, and thus constitutes a vital source of information for the development of conservation measures. We used spatial modelling to estimate the abundance and explore the habitat use of common dolphins in this area, examining regional, seasonal and interannual variations, as well as the influence of biological factors such as presence of calves, interspecific relationships and behaviour. From 1992 to 2004, 37385 km of non-systematic line transects generated 738 sightings in a 19189 km2 study area. The point estimate of abundance was 19428 (95% CI = 15277 to 22804) dolphins. Seasonal and geographical variations in abundance were detected, with higher average density in summer than in winter, and in the Western Alborán Sea than in the east Gulf of Vera, which has different physical/environmental characteristics. No overall trend in abundance was observed in the Alborán area. However, a decline was observed in the Gulf of Vera, with a summer density 3-fold lower in the period from 1996 to 2004 than in 1992 to 1995. A potential link of this decline with prey depletion due to the exponential growth of aquaculture in the area is discussed. Clear differences in habitat use were also found when examining the influence of biological factors. In particular, groups with calves and groups that were feeding preferred more coastal waters. This result could have important implications for the development of conservation measures for this species in the Mediterranean.


KEY WORDS: Common dolphin · Mediterranean · Generalized Additive Models · GAMs · Abundance · Trends · Habitat use · Alborán Sea


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Cite this article as: Cañadas A, Hammond PS (2008) Abundance and habitat preferences of the short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis in the southwestern Mediterranean: implications for conservation. Endang Species Res 4:309-331. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00073

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