The first “lost year” of Mediterranean sea turtles: dispersal patterns indicate subregional management units for conservation

Paolo Casale, Patrizio Mariani

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Identifying highly frequented areas is a priority for sea turtle conservation, and the distribution of young individuals in open waters represents a major knowledge gap due to methodological biases. The drift of hatchlings from 38 loggerhead and 10 green turtle nesting sites in the Mediterranean were simulated for the first six months of life, with the simulations being repeated for five different years (2001 – 2005). The results indicate that hatchlings from the Levantine and south-central Mediterranean sites are mainly retained in the same areas of origin, while those from the Ionian area mainly disperse to the Ionian, Adriatic and south-central Mediterranean areas. Combining hatchling dispersal with existing empirical information on juveniles and adults, a general distribution model among nesting sites, oceanic and neritic foraging grounds for Mediterranean sea turtles is proposed. The Levantine zone may be particularly key for the conservation of the Mediterranean populations of both species, since it may host the highest concentration of individuals. Subregional management units identified by dispersal patterns may facilitate turtle conservation through a relatively small-scale international approach. In-water studies in specific zones are identified as a research priority for improving the current knowledge and inform conservation plans
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Pages (from-to)263-274
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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