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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Flatback futures—evaluating conservation interventions to reduce threats to an endemic Australian turtle

Alistair J. Hobday*, E. Ingrid van Putten, Christopher Cvitanovic, Michael Dunlop, Sabrina Fossette, Sierra Ison, Shane A. Richards, Linda Thomas, Paris Tuohy, Ruby Annand-Jones, Tony Tucker, Scott Whiting

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Australia’s endemic flatback turtle Natator depressus is the focus of a long-term conservation program aimed at securing the persistence of healthy populations in the northwest of Australia into the future. Primary threats to flatback turtles include (1) sea level rise, (2) predation from introduced species, (3) temperature increases, (4) onshore and nearshore light, (5) marine debris, and (6) modification to beaches. Population declines resulting from these threats have been reported or are anticipated, and a range of intervention options are possible that may limit their negative impact. Following methods previously developed and applied to iconic marine species and habitats, we generated a range of intervention options, and asked experts to prioritise those actions using an intervention prioritisation tool (IPT) and the public to prioritise based on social acceptability assessment (SAS). The IPT allows different conservation interventions to be assessed based on their economic cost, implementation feasibility, social acceptability, and perceived effectiveness in maintaining or increasing future turtle populations while simultaneously accounting for expert confidence in their assessment. Results generated by the IPT and SAS can be explored further to resolve uncertainty, a process which can help managers and experts alike in their decision-making process associated with flatback conservation. While this paper is focused on interventions relating to flatback turtles, we propose that our IPT can be applied in different settings to enable consideration of interventions for a range of threatened species and habitats to guide research and conservation investment decisions by managers.