Migration, foraging, and residency patterns for Northern Gulf loggerheads: implications of local threats and international movements

PLoS ONE
By: , and 

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Abstract

Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGoM) loggerheads (Caretta caretta) make up one of the smallest subpopulations of this threatened species and have declining nest numbers. We used satellite telemetry and a switching state-space model to identify distinct foraging areas used by 59 NGoM loggerheads tagged during 2010–2013. We tagged turtles after nesting at three sites, 1 in Alabama (Gulf Shores; n = 37) and 2 in Florida (St. Joseph Peninsula; n = 20 and Eglin Air Force Base; n = 2). Peak migration time was 22 July to 9 August during which >40% of turtles were in migration mode; the mean post-nesting migration period was 23.0 d (±13.8 d SD). After displacement from nesting beaches, 44 turtles traveled to foraging sites where they remained resident throughout tracking durations. Selected foraging locations were variable distances from tagging sites, and in 5 geographic regions; no turtles selected foraging sites outside the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Foraging sites delineated using 50% kernel density estimation were located a mean distance of 47.6 km from land and in water with mean depth of −32.5 m; other foraging sites, delineated using minimum convex polygons, were located a mean distance of 43.0 km from land and in water with a mean depth of −24.9 m. Foraging sites overlapped with known trawling activities, oil and gas extraction activities, and the footprint of surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (n = 10). Our results highlight the year-round use of habitats in the GoM by loggerheads that nest in the NGoM. Our findings indicate that protection of females in this subpopulation requires both international collaborations and management of threats that spatially overlap with distinct foraging habitats.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Migration, foraging, and residency patterns for Northern Gulf loggerheads: implications of local threats and international movements
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0103453
Volume 9
Issue 7
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Public Library of Science
Contributing office(s) Southeast Ecological Science Center
Description e103453; 20 p.
Country United States
Other Geospatial Gulf of Mexico
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N