Research key to dolphins future

The future survival of the Port River’s popular dolphin population is dependent on gaining a detailed insight into the pod’s habitat and the measures needed to protect it, according to a Flinders University marine biologist.

Over the next 12 months, PhD candidate Ms Nardi Cribb will monitor the activities of the resident and transient bottle nosed dolphins within the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary – which includes part of the Port River and adjacent St Vincents Gulf waters – to determine whether or not the physical and chemical aspects of the environment have an affect on their behaviour and movement.

“Until now, research of this nature has only concentrated on one area of the dolphin’s habitat, such as water depth and water quality,” Ms Cribb said.

“I will be looking at a whole suite of issues, from the structure of the seabed (bare sand or seagrass) to a range of water properties, including temperature, water depth, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, salinity levels, ph levels and turbidity,” she said.

According to Ms Cribb, it is hoped the results of the study, which is partially funded by the SA Department of Environment and Heritage, can be used to help further develop the management strategy for the various environments within the Sanctuary.

“In order to ensure the future survival of the population we need to preserve the areas and we will not be able to do that effectively unless we have a clearer understanding of the areas that are important to their various activities,” Ms Cribb said.

“For instance, an earlier study of the area found that the dolphins tended to socialise or mate over the bare sand areas that are located within the river and dolphin calves were predominantly spotted swimming in this sheltered area as well, which may mean that that area is good for nursing.”

“Therefore, it is essential for us to determine the importance of these areas to the dolphin population so that they can be managed and maintained for generations to come.”

Depending on the success of the study, Ms Cribb said there was potential for it to be extended to include other cetacean habitats across the state, particularly Kangaroo Island.

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