Detecting green shoots of recovery: the importance of long-term individual-based monitoring of marine turtles
Stokes, Kimberley L
Fuller, Wayne J
Hodgson, David J.
Rhodes, Kirsty A
Snape, Robin T E
Broderick, Annette C.
Zoological Society of London
Reason for embargo
Temporary embargo required due to publisher policy
Population monitoring is an essential part of evaluating the effectiveness of management interventions for conservation. Coastal breeding aggregations of marine vertebrate species that come ashore to pup or nest provide an opportunistic window of observation into otherwise widely dispersed populations. Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting on the north and west coasts of northern Cyprus has been monitored consistently and exhaustively since 1993, with an intensive saturation tagging programme running at one key site for the same duration. This historically depleted nesting population is showing signs of recovery, possibly in response to nest protection approaching two decades, with increasing nest numbers and rising levels of recruitment. Strong correlation between year to year magnitude of nesting and the proportion of new breeders in the nesting cohort implies that recruitment of new individuals to the breeding population is an important driver of this recovery trend. Recent changes in fishing activities may be impacting the local juvenile neritic stage, however, which may hinder this potential recovery. Individuals returning to breed after 2 years laid fewer clutches than those returning after 3 or 4 years, demonstrating a trade-off between remigration interval and breeding output. Average clutch frequencies have remained stable around a median of three clutches a year per female despite the demographic shift towards new nesters, which typically lay fewer clutches in their first season. We show that where local fecundity has been adequately assessed, the use of average clutch frequencies can be a reliable method for deriving nester abundance from nest counts. Index sites where individual based monitoring is possible will be important in monitoring long-term climate driven changes in reproductive rates.
European Social Fund, British Chelonia Group, North Cyprus British High Commission, North Cyprus British Residents Society, Erwin Warth Foundation, Friends of SPOT, Kuzey Kıbrıs Turkcell and MEDASSET UK.
Post-print version deposited in accordance with SHERPA RoMEO guidelines. The definitive version is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acv.12128/full