Why is research and monitoring a component of best practice?
Although research and monitoring on its own cannot protect river dolphins, it is an essential component of designing effective conservation strategies.
On the most basic level, it is impossible to protect river dolphins without knowing where they are found. Conservation strategies have to target the habitats that are important to the river dolphins. For this reason, we present best practices to collect data on distribution and range.
On the next level, it is important to know whether conservation strategies or mitigation measures are working, and to measure the impact of any developments or threats. In order to measure this, it is important to understand how many dolphins are present before, during and after a conservation intervention or a potentially harmful human activity has occurred. For this reason, we present best practices on studying abundance and trends.
At a finer scale, it is critical to understand what dolphins are doing in the riverine ecosystems that are being considered for protection or development, in order to predict, as much as possible, how measures under consideration may impact the dolphins. For this reason, we present best practices on studying habitat use and movements, as well as species’ behaviours.
Finally, understanding that many river dolphin populations are already depleted, and in many cases fragmented, it is vital to know more about population structure, exchange and genetic health. At a certain point, small isolated populations may not be able to persist as viable units, due to inbreeding or reduced habitat size or quality. If this stage is reached, it is important to understand how each species, population, and sub-population is related to neighbouring regions, and where there might be scope for intervention to improve the species’ chances of survival. For this reason, we present best practices on studying genetics and population structure.
To learn more about each of these topics, click on the links below.