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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 703:161-175 (2023)  -  DOI:

Spatial distribution of inter-nesting green turtles from the largest Eastern Atlantic rookery and overlap with a marine protected area

Cheila Raposo1,#,*, Julie Mestre1,#, Rui Rebelo2, Aissa Regalla3, Alasdair Davies4, Castro Barbosa3, Ana Rita Patrício1,5

1MARE - Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre / ARNET - Aquatic Research Network, Ispa - Instituto Universitário, 1149-041, Lisboa, Portugal
2cE3c Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes & CHANGE - Global Change and Sustainability Institute, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
3Instituto da Biodiversidade e das Áreas Protegidas Dr. Alfredo Simão da Silva (IBAP), Av. Dom Settimio Arturro Ferrazzetta, CP 70, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau
4Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY, UK
5Centre for Ecology & Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, UK
*Corresponding author:
#These authors have contributed equally to this work and share first authorship

ABSTRACT: Understanding the spatial distribution of wildlife is fundamental to establish effective conservation measures. Tracking has been key to assess movement patterns and connectivity of sea turtles, yet some regions of great significance are largely understudied. We tracked 44 green turtles from the largest rookery in the Eastern Atlantic, on Poilão Island, Guinea-Bissau, during 2018 through 2020, to assess their inter-nesting movements, connectivity with nearby islands and fidelity to inter-nesting sites. Additionally, we investigated individual and environmental factors that may guide inter-nesting distribution and assessed the adequacy of a marine protected area to support this population during the breeding period. Green turtles had an overall home range of 124.45 km2, mostly occupying a restricted area around Poilão Island, with 52% of this home range falling within the no-take zone of the João Vieira-Poilão Marine National Park. Turtles exhibited strong fidelity to inter-nesting sites, likely as a strategy to save energy. Only 2 turtles performed significant excursions out of the park, and connectivity between Poilão and nearby islands within the park was limited. Larger turtles and turtles tagged later in the nesting season tended to have smaller core areas and home ranges; thus, experienced breeders may be moving less and potentially benefit from energy saving. This study highlights the importance of a marine protected area for the conservation of one of the largest green turtle breeding populations globally, and provides suggestions for further increasing its effectiveness.

KEY WORDS: Sea turtle · Inter-nesting behaviour · Breeding period · Home range · Tracking · Spatial distribution · Site fidelity · West Africa

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Cite this article as: Raposo C, Mestre J, Rebelo R, Regalla A, Davies A, Barbosa C, Patrício AR (2023) Spatial distribution of inter-nesting green turtles from the largest Eastern Atlantic rookery and overlap with a marine protected area. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 703:161-175.

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