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ESR 48:1-14 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01181

The island hoppers: how foraging influences green turtle Chelonia mydas abundance over space and time in the Lakshadweep Archipelago, India

Nupur Kale1,2,*, Muralidharan Manoharakrishnan1, D. K. Bharti3,4, Meenakshi Poti1,5,6, Kartik Shanker1,3

1Dakshin Foundation, 2203, 8th Main, MCECHS Layout, D-Block, Bengaluru 560092, India
2Wildlife Conservation Society-India, 551 7th Main Road, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, 2nd Phase, Kodigehalli, Bengaluru 560097, India
3Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, CV Raman Road, Bengaluru 560012, India
4Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Uppal Road, IICT Colony, Habsiguda, Hyderabad 500007, India
5Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
6Université Libre de Bruxelles, Av. Franklin Roosevelt 50, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Adult green turtles are known to display either preference in their foraging habits or fidelity to their foraging sites which, in turn, influences their migrations and the availability of forage. With an abundant supply of seagrass and algae, the lagoons of the Lakshadweep Archipelago off the Indian west coast serve as significant feeding grounds for green turtles. In the last 2 decades, the numbers of foraging green turtles have varied across islands, leading to speculation about their foraging patterns and movements. We collated secondary data and conducted periodic surveys between 2013 and 2019 to record trends in green turtle abundance and seagrass characteristics and investigate relationships between them. Over the last decade, green turtle abundances have fluctuated widely with increases followed by sharp declines within different lagoons. Our results also show that a reduction in seagrass density, particularly Thalassia sp. and Cymodocea sp., coincided with the decline in green turtle abundance. Moreover, turtle presence was observed at sites with higher seagrass density and canopy height. Our findings indicate that green turtles appeared to forage in particular lagoons until their preferred resources declined, before moving to other islands within the Archipelago or other unknown locations. Therefore, to devise effective management strategies, it is crucial to understand how this green turtle population will adapt to the decline in foraging resources. The declining seagrass populations also suggest the need for an ecosystem approach towards green turtle conservation.


KEY WORDS: Green turtle · Seagrass · Lakshadweep · Foraging · Abundance · Movement


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Cite this article as: Kale N, Manoharakrishnan M, Bharti DK, Poti M, Shanker K (2022) The island hoppers: how foraging influences green turtle Chelonia mydas abundance over space and time in the Lakshadweep Archipelago, India. Endang Species Res 48:1-14. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01181

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