[MARMAM] New Publication: Dugong Feeding Grounds and Spatial Feeding Patterns in Subtidal Seagrass

Heng Wei Khang hengweikhang at gmail.com
Sun Dec 19 06:52:14 PST 2021

Dear MARMAM colleagues,

On behalf of the co-authors, I am pleased to share our new publication.
This paper presents a case for dugongs being strategic feeders that modify
their grazing behaviour in response to the availability of seagrass.

Heng, H. W. K., Ooi, J. L. S., Affendi, Y. A., Kee Alfian, A. A., &
Ponnampalam, L. S. (2022). Dugong feeding grounds and spatial feeding
patterns in subtidal seagrass: A case study at Sibu Archipelago, Malaysia.
Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 264, 107670.

[Abstract]: In Southeast Asia, seagrass meadows are under threat through
coastal development and increased pollution, but remain understudied. The
dugong is a marine herbivore that is dependent on the availability of
seagrass as a primary food source. In this study, we assess the patterns of
co-occurrence between dugongs and seagrass. We hypothesize that the
changing spatial patterns of dugong feeding are positively correlated to
the seasonal variation in distribution and abundance of mixed species in
subtidal tropical seagrass meadows. We documented seagrass cover and dugong
feeding trails in the Sibu Archipelago meadow in Johor, Malaysia, across
the monsoon seasons of 2016–2017 using an underwater towed video method.
Moran’s I and Getis-Ord Gi* statistics were used to quantify the degree of
clustering in feeding trails, feeding patch size, and to identify feeding
hotspots and coldspots. This site has the single largest subtidal meadow in
Peninsular Malaysia known to date, measuring 12.88 km2. The study captured
a reduction in seagrass extent and coverage during the study. Feeding trail
occurrence averaged three per image throughout the seasons, with the
maximum number being 14 trails per image. Dugongs fed in a spatially
clustered manner leaving two distinct feeding trail patterns: (1) a
dispersed pattern when seagrass cover was high or low (76–100% and 0–25%)
that resulted in larger patch sizes, and (2) a concentrated pattern in
moderate seagrass cover (26–75%) that resulted in smaller patch size.
Feeding hotspots and coldspots had significantly different seagrass cover,
suggesting that dugongs foraged strategically within the meadow. Our
results demonstrate that seagrass cover played a significant role in
driving dugong feeding patterns and in creating feeding hotspots and
coldspots in tropical subtidal meadows.

The journal provided open limited downloads by using the following link:

Please, feel free to contact me at hengweikhang at gmail.com or the
corresponding author jillian_03 at um.edu.my for any comment, question or for
a PDF copy of the manuscript.

Kind regards,
Harris Heng (he/him), MPhil
Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences
Universiti Malaya, Malaysia
Team Sea Habitats Lab <http://teamseahabitats.weebly.com/> | Personal
Website <https://harrishengwk.weebly.com/>
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