To complement the existing knowledge of distribution and habitat use and ecology of Adriatic coastal bottlenose dolphins, in 2013 we initiated an extension of Lošinj survey area towards south and started the Adriatic Dolphin Project North Dalmatia (ADP ND). Its objective is to study bottlenose dolphins inhabiting the archipelago of northern Dalmatia –from the islands of Silba and Olib in the north, to the islands of Žirje and Zlarin in the south. The new study area lies just south of Cres-Lošinj archipelago and north of Vis archipelago, encompassing National Park Kornati and Nature Park Telašćica and two Natura 2000 sites for bottlenose dolphins. After opening of ADP ND the BWI research teams now cover a 300 km long continuous study area providing an incredible opportunity to study all aspects of life of coastal and open sea bottlenose dolphin communities in the Adriatic Sea.

Dolphins at dawn

ADP Northern Dalmatia fills a significant gap in systematic knowledge about the status of bottlenose dolphins inhabiting this area. Our knowledge of general distribution of this species along the Adriatic coast indicates that animal distribution is continuous, but animals show residency within local areas and do not carry out extensive migrations. Opening of ADP ND provides important information about connectivity between the other two study sites and we expect to see some individuals known from our work at Lošinj and Vis within it. New information will enable us to determine the home ranges of distinct bottlenose dolphin communities – a key information point previously unavailable. It also enables us to estimate population size more precisely, determine population structure and investigate interactions between local communities. This information directly relates to conservation efforts as it enables informed decision making and more efficient future monitoring schemes.

Due to its size, North Dalmatia encompasses various habitats, most notably a labyrinth of narrow and shallow channels within Kornati archipelago and is exposed to a full range of anthropogenic pressures such as urban areas (Zadar), developed tourism (Biograd, Murter, and Vodice), fisheries and numerous aquaculture sites. On the other hand, there are distant and isolated areas where anthropogenic pressure is still relatively low (for example, the western side of Dugi Island and Kornati National Park). This diversity of natural and anthropogenic factors makes the area a “natural laboratory” for observing complex links between bottlenose dolphins and their habitat.

Aquaculture site near Zadar

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