Using fisher knowledge, mapping population, habitat suitability and risk for the conservation of dugongs in Johor Straits of Malaysia
In the coastal waters of Johor Straits, Peninsular Malaysia, the dugongs occur and their habitat suitability model has yet not been attempted, while it could be critical information for developing their conservation strategies. This study derived spatially explicit dugong population information on the abundance and distribution of dugongs based on fisher surveys. The survey revealed the highest dugong abundance around eastern areas, followed by southern areas of Johor Straits. Degradation of seagrass habitat, which dugong uses as feeding ground, could be the main reason for reducing dugong sighting around western areas. A habitat suitability map was produced based on dugong presence and interacting environmental factors such as seagrass biomass, distance from shoreline, and water depth. Using ArcGIS mapping capability, the data layers on those environmental factors were fied into MaxEnt. The MaxEnt model output showed seagrass biomass as the highest contributing factor to the likelihood of dugong presence. The model also estimated 20 kg/m2 of seagrass biomass, 3 km distance from shoreline and a water depth of 25 m as the optimum habitat condition for dugong population. The combination of fisher interview, habitat suitability, and risk modeling has the ability to provide adequate information required for monitoring and developing policy strategies for sustainable management and conservation of marine mammals.