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ESR 40:107-121 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00980

Turtles on the trash track: loggerhead turtles exposed to floating plastic in the Mediterranean Sea

A. Arcangeli1,*, F. Maffucci2, F. Atzori3,4, M. Azzolin5, I. Campana6, L. Carosso6, R. Crosti1, F. Frau3, L. David7, N. Di-Méglio7, M. Roul7, M. Gregorietti8, V. Mazzucato6, G. Pellegrino6, A. Giacoletti9, M. Paraboschi6, A. Zampollo5, G. A. de Lucia10, S. Hochscheid11

1ISPRA, Department for Biodiversity Conservation and Monitoring, Via Brancati 48, 00143 Rome, Italy
2RIMAR Department, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale, 80121 Naples, Italy
3Capo Carbonara MPA- Municipality of Villasimius, 09049 Villasimius (SU), Italy
4Department of Ecological and Biological Sciences, Ichthyogenic Experimental Marine Center (CISMAR), Tuscia University, Borgo Le Saline, 01016 Tarquinia, VT, Italy
5Gaia Research Institute, Corso Moncalieri 68B, 10133 Torino, Italy
6Accademia del Leviatano, Via dell'Ospedaletto 53/55, 00054 Maccarese, RM, Italy
7EcoOcéan Institut, 34090 Montpellier, France
8BioacousticsLab, CNR-IAS, Institute of Anthropic Impact and Sustainability in Marine Environment - National Research Council, Via del Mare 3, 91021 Torretta Granitola (TP), Italy
9Department of Earth and Marine Science (DiSTeM), Laboratory of Ecology, University of Palermo, Viale delle Scienze Ed. 16, 90128 Palermo, Italy
10CNR-IAMC, Institute for Coastal Marine Environment - National Research Council, Torregrande (OR), Italy
11Marine Turtle Research Center, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Via Nuova Macello 16, 80055 Portici, Italy
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta spend most of their life in large marine areas occupying a variety of habitats where they are exposed to different types of threats. Among these, marine litter poses a risk of entanglement or ingestion. Areas of risk exposure can be identified where the species overlap with litter accumulations, but gathering data on this highly mobile species and marine litter, especially in high sea areas, is challenging. Here we analysed 5 years of sea turtle and marine litter data collected by a network of research bodies along fixed trans-border transects in the Mediterranean Sea. Ferries were used as observation platforms to gather systematic data on a seasonal basis using standard protocols. Loggerhead turtle sightings over time and space were compared in terms of sightings per unit effort, and risk-exposure areas were assessed based on seasonal overlap of species hot spots and high-density plastic areas revealed by kernel analysis. In almost 180000 km surveyed, 1258 sea turtles were recorded, concentrated mostly in the central Adriatic Sea and Sardinia-Sicilian channels during all seasons, and in the central Tyrrhenian Sea during spring. Plastic comprised the highest fraction of litter items detected. Several areas of higher risk exposure, both permanent and seasonal, were identified, mainly in the Adriatic Sea and during the spring-summer seasons. Records of both species and floating litter were highly variable, underlying the need for continuous long-term monitoring to develop sound conservation and management measures, especially in the identified areas of risk exposure.


KEY WORDS: Loggerhead turtle · Caretta caretta · Marine litter · Mediterranean Sea · Monitoring · Risk assessment


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Cite this article as: Arcangeli A, Maffucci F, Atzori F, Azzolin M and others (2019) Turtles on the trash track: loggerhead turtles exposed to floating plastic in the Mediterranean Sea. Endang Species Res 40:107-121. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00980

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