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Science en herbe : raising awareness about the importance of dugongs and their habitat in New Caledonia : final report

  • Brisset, M.
  • Derville, S.
  • Andréfouët, Serge
  • Cleguer, C.
  • Buttin, J.
  • Garrigue, Claire
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2022
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The project Science en herbe was funded by the MoU Dugong through a Small-Scale Funding Agreement, and developped to improve knowledge of seagrass meadow distribution and dugong foraging ecology in the southwest lagoon of New Caledonia, while promoting citizen science and raising awareness about the conservation status of these emblematic animals and their habitat. New Caledonia, a French overseas territory located in the south-western Pacific Ocean, ~1500 km east of Australia, is home to one of the largest population of dugongs in the world. Extensive aerial surveys provided a general overview of its distribution, with the highest densities being observed on the west coast. The population of dugongs in New Caledonia was estimated between 426 ± 134 and 717 ± 171 individuals between 2008 and 2012 (Cleguer et al., 2017, Hagihara et al., 2018). Moreover, satellite tracking has revealed a great heterogeneity of movements across individuals and identified multiple core areas of use (Cleguer et al., 2020). Dugongs were found to use diverse habitats, from intertidal coastal seagrass meadows in lagoons, to the oceanic deeper waters outside the barrier reef.Based on a citizen science approach, this project aimed to 1) enhance the evidence base for local conservation of seagrass and dugongs in the southwest lagoon of New Caledonia, and 2) help raise awareness on the ecosystemic value of seagrass meadows and currents threats to dugongs in New Caledonia, by specifically targeting the younger members of urban communities in Nouméa. The project included five phases that took place from January to May 2022 : outreach and launch of the participatory research activities ; participatory seagrass meadows photo collection ; scientific seagrass meadows mapping and dugong diet analyses; raising awarness among youth community, and a finale photo exhibition.

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