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Marine turtle regional management units 2.0: an updated framework for conservation and research of wide-ranging megafauna species

Bryan P. Wallace*, Zach A. Posnik, Brendan J. Hurley, Andrew D. DiMatteo, Ashleigh Bandimere, Isabel Rodriguez, Sara M. Maxwell, Lucy Meyer, Hannah Brenner, Michael P. Jensen, Erin LaCasella, Brian M. Shamblin, F. Alberto Abreu-Grobois, Kelly R. Stewart, Peter H. Dutton, Hector Barrios-Garrido, Mayuel Dalleau, Florence Dell’amico, Karen L. Eckert, Nancy N. FitzSimmons, Marco Garcia-Cruz, Graeme C. Hays, Shaleyla Kelez, Cynthia J. Lagueux, Christine A. Madden Hof, Adolfo Marco, Samir L. T. Martins, Asghar Mobaraki, Jeanne A. Mortimer, Ronel Nel, Andrea Phillott, Nicolas J. Pilcher, Nathan F. Putman, Alan F. Rees, Juan M. Rguez-Baron, Jeffrey A. Seminoff, Adhith Swaminathan, Oguz Turkozan,, Sarah M. Vargas, Pedro D. Vernet,, Sibelle Vilaça, Scott D. Whiting, Brian J. Hutchinson, Paolo Casale, Roderic B. Mast

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Delineating spatial boundaries that accurately encompass complex, often cryptic life histories of highly migratory marine megafauna can be a significant conservation challenge. For example, marine turtles range across vast ocean basins and coastal areas, thus complicating the evaluation of relative impacts of multiple overlapping threats and the creation of coherent conservation strategies. To address these challenges, spatially explicit ‘regional management units’ (RMUs) were developed in 2010 for all marine turtle species, globally. RMUs were intended to provide a consistent framework that organizes conspecific assemblages into units above the level of nesting rookeries and genetic stocks, but below the species level, within regional entities that may share demographic trajectories because they experience similar environmental conditions and other factors. From their initial conception, RMUs were intended to be periodically revised using new information about marine turtle distributions, life history, habitat use patterns, and population structure. Here, we describe the process used to update the 2010 RMU framework by incorporating newly published information and inputs from global marine turtle experts who are members of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. A total of 48 RMUs for six of seven marine turtle species and 166 distinct genetic stocks for all seven species are presented herein. The updated RMU framework reflects a significant advance in knowledge of marine turtle biology and biogeography, and it provides improved clarity about the RMU concept and its potential applications. All RMU products have been made open access to support research and conservation initiatives worldwide.