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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 47:91-107 (2022)  -  DOI:

Habitat models and assessment of habitat partitioning for Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead marine turtles foraging in Chesapeake Bay (USA)

Andrew DiMatteo1,2,*, Gwen Lockhart3,4,5, Susan Barco4

1CheloniData LLC, Berthoud, CO 80513, USA
2McLaughlin Research Corporation, Middletown, RI 02842, USA
3Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Atlantic, Norfolk, VA 23508, USA
4Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Virginia Beach, VA, 23451 USA
5Present address: WSP, USA, 277 Bendix Road, Suite 300/Suite 470, Virginia Beach, VA, 23452, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Understanding the spatial distribution of a species is required to enact effective conservation. Complications to effective conservation can arise when the distributions of multiple target species are non-overlapping. Conservation efforts meant to protect one species may shift threats into the distribution of another species. Two species of marine turtle, loggerhead Caretta caretta and Kemp’s ridley Lepidochelys kempii, are common seasonally in Chesapeake Bay, a large estuary on the US east coast. Both species are protected under the US Endangered Species Act and face spatially complex threats in the region. We created habitat suitability models for these 2 species to inform conservation efforts in the region and explore the extent of overlap between their distributions. Argos satellite tags were deployed on 24 Kemp’s ridley and 10 loggerhead turtles to record animal locations within the Bay. Boosted regression tree models were created for each species using presence-only animal locations, predicting suitable habitat within the Bay. Habitat for Kemp’s ridley turtles was predicted in shallow, coastal areas of the southern Bay as well as in brackish areas of rivers. Loggerhead turtle habitat was predicted to extend farther north than Kemp’s ridley habitat and was generally found in deeper areas of the middle Bay. There is some evidence that these 2 species are partitioning habitat. Any conservation measures adopted to conserve marine turtles in the Chesapeake Bay should consider the habitat of both species holistically to avoid shifting impacts from one species to another.

KEY WORDS: Marine turtles · Habitat suitability · Habitat partitioning · Boosted regression trees · Caretta caretta · Lepidochelys kempii

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Cite this article as: DiMatteo A, Lockhart G, Barco S (2022) Habitat models and assessment of habitat partitioning for Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead marine turtles foraging in Chesapeake Bay (USA). Endang Species Res 47:91-107.

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