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Schofield G.,University of Swansea | Hobson V.J.,University of Swansea | Fossette S.,University of Swansea | Lilley M.K.S.,University of Swansea | And 2 more authors.
Diversity and Distributions | Year: 2010

Aim: Resources can shape patterns of habitat utilization. Recently a broad foraging dichotomy between oceanic and coastal sites has been revealed for loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Since oceanic and coastal foraging sites differ in prey availability, we might expect a gross difference in home-range size across these habitats. We tested this hypothesis by equipping nine adult male loggerhead sea turtles with GPS tracking devices. Location: National Marine Park of Zakynthos (NMPZ) Greece, central and eastern Mediterranean (Adriatic, Ionian and Aegean seas). Methods: In 2007, 2008 and 2009, Fastloc GPS-Argos transmitters were attached to nine male loggerheads. In addition, a Sirtrack PTT unit was attached to one male in 2007. Four of the turtles were tracked on successive years. We filtered the GPS data to ensure comparable data volumes. Route consistency between breeding and foraging sites of the four re-tracked turtles was conducted. Foraging site home range areas and within site movement patterns were investigated by the fixed kernel density method. Results: Foraging home range size ranged between circa 10 km2 at neritic habitats (coastal and open-sea on the continental shelf) to circa 1000 km2 at oceanic sites (using 90% kernel estimates), the latter most probably reflecting sparsely distributed oceanic prey. Across different years individuals did not follow exactly the same migration routes, but did show fidelity to their previous foraging sites, whether oceanic or neritic, with accurate homing in the final stages of migration. Main conclusions: The broad distribution and diverse life-history strategies of this population could complicate the identification of priority marine protected areas beyond the core breeding site. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source

Hays G.C.,University of Swansea | Fossette S.,University of Swansea | Katselidis K.A.,National Marine Park of Zakynthos | Mariani P.,Technical University of Denmark | Schofield G.,University of Swansea
Journal of the Royal Society Interface | Year: 2010

Long distance migration occurs in a wide variety of taxa including birds, insects, fishes, mammals and reptiles. Here, we provide evidence for a new paradigm for the determinants of migration destination. As adults, sea turtles show fidelity to their natal nesting areas and then at the end of the breeding season may migrate to distant foraging sites. For a major rookery in the Mediterranean, we simulated hatchling drift by releasing 288 000 numerical particles in an area close to the nesting beaches. We show that the pattern of adult dispersion from the breeding area reflects the extent of passive dispersion that would be experienced by hatchlings. Hence, the prevailing oceanography around nesting areas may be crucial to the selection of foraging sites used by adult sea turtles. This environmental forcing may allow the rapid evolution of new migration destinations if ocean currents alter with climate change. © 2010 The Royal Society. Source

Hays G.C.,University of Swansea | Fossette S.,University of Swansea | Katselidis K.A.,National Marine Park of Zakynthos | Schofield G.,University of Swansea | Gravenor M.B.,University of Swansea
Conservation Biology | Year: 2010

Species that have temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) often produce highly skewed offspring sex ratios contrary to long-standing theoretical predictions. This ecological enigma has provoked concern that climate change may induce the production of single-sex generations and hence lead to population extirpation. All species of sea turtles exhibit TSD, many are already endangered, and most already produce sex ratios skewed to the sex produced at warmer temperatures (females). We tracked male loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) from Zakynthos, Greece, throughout the entire interval between successive breeding seasons and identified individuals on their breeding grounds, using photoidentification, to determine breeding periodicity and operational sex ratios. Males returned to breed at least twice as frequently as females. We estimated that the hatchling sex ratio of 70:30 female to male for this rookery will translate into an overall operational sex ratio (OSR) (i.e., ratio of total number of males vs females breeding each year) of close to 50:50 female to male. We followed three male turtles for between 10 and 12 months during which time they all traveled back to the breeding grounds. Flipper tagging revealed the proportion of females returning to nest after intervals of 1, 2, 3, and 4 years were 0.21, 0.38, 0.29, and 0.12, respectively (mean interval 2.3 years). A further nine male turtles were tracked for short periods to determine their departure date from the breeding grounds. These departure dates were combined with a photoidentification data set of 165 individuals identified on in-water transect surveys at the start of the breeding season to develop a statistical model of the population dynamics. This model produced a maximum likelihood estimate that males visit the breeding site 2.6 times more often than females (95%CI 2.1, 3.1), which was consistent with the data from satellite tracking and flipper tagging. Increased frequency of male breeding will help ameliorate female-biased hatchling sex ratios. Combined with the ability of males to fertilize the eggs of many females and for females to store sperm to fertilize many clutches, our results imply that effects of climate change on the viability of sea turtle populations are likely to be less acute than previously suspected. © 2010 Society for Conservation Biology. Source

Schofield G.,University of Swansea | Hobson V.J.,University of Swansea | Lilley M.K.S.,University of Swansea | Katselidis K.A.,National Marine Park of Zakynthos | And 3 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2010

We assessed home range size for breeding loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) near the limit of the species range at the Greek island of Zakynthos in the Mediterranean. Thirteen adult females and seven adult males were tracked using GPS units (loggers and transmitters) during May and June of 2006, 2007 and 2008. Kernel analysis indicated that core home range sizes (50% estimator; range: 2.9-19.7 km2) for both males and females were restricted to a 7.5 km tract of coastline. 15% of GPS locations fell outside of the national park protection zones, while within the protected breeding area 88% of GPS locations occurred in zones of minimal protection. Female home ranges were 64% larger in 2008 than in 2006 and 2007, indicating that several years monitoring may be required for the most effective designation of marine protected areas (MPAs). Ten of the tracked females departed the core breeding area on 15 occasions for periods of 1-15 days travelling distances of 10-100 km, although none nested at alternative breeding sites. The inter-annual variability of breeding area home range size and likelihood of incidence of forays appeared be correlated with barometric pressure. The movement responses of loggerheads to environmental conditions implicates an ability to switch nesting areas over small scales in response to climate change. However, such behaviour suggests the protection of existing core breeding sites may be inadequate, with policy makers being required to consider the protection of broader areas to encompass potential changes in the habitat needs of this species. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Source

Schofield G.,University of Swansea | Scott R.,University of Swansea | Scott R.,Leibniz Institute of Marine Science | Dimadi A.,National Marine Park of Zakynthos | And 12 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) now form an important part of marine conservation and fisheries management; hence, there is broad interest in developing procedures that optimize their design. We used data collected over a 10-year period (2003-2012) from direct surveys and. >100. adult male and female loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) tracked with devices, including GPS loggers and Fastloc GPS-Argos, to consider the optimum design for a MPA at a globally important breeding area, where there is already an existing national marine park aiming to protect the population (Zakynthos, Greece). Turtles primarily used areas very close to shore (approx. 7. km in length by 1. km in width, within the. <10. m isobath) for breeding and foraging activity at different times of the year. We calculated that this small nearshore coastal zone encompassed 72% of all turtle GPS locations recorded in the MPA, and is therefore important for conservation management. We developed an index to evaluate the suitability of the existing and proposed conservation zones based on (1) home range area use by turtles in these zones versus (2) zone size, so that the benefit to turtles could be maximized while minimizing the negative impacts to other stakeholders (e.g., boat operators). With this evidence-based approach, we propose a modification to the existing MPA that might both enhance local economic tourism activities and better safeguard this key sea turtle breeding population. The approaches used here will have general application for the design of MPAs used by mobile species that can be tracked. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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