ABSTRACT: Abundance estimates corrected for changes in detection are needed to assess population trends. We used transect-count surveys and N-mixture models to estimate green turtle Chelonia mydas and hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata detection and total abundance at foraging grounds in Bonaire during 2003−2018, and we used these total abundance estimates to fit a Bayesian state–space logistic model and make abundance predictions for 2019−2030. During 2019−2022, we also recorded distance categories to estimate detection and total abundance using distance sampling and N-mixture models. In the present study, we focus on distance sampling to estimate observer detectability and total abundance, and to determine if total abundance increased, declined, or did not change during 2019−2022 and when compared with 2003−2018 estimates and 2019−2030 predictions. Detectability averaged 0.53 (SE = 0.02) for green turtles and 0.51 (SE = 0.06) for hawksbill turtles. Density (ind. km−2) and population size (individuals in the 4 km2 survey region) averaged 72.1 (SE = 17.3) and 288 (SE = 69) for green turtles and 21.8 (SE = 4.6) and 87 (SE = 18) for hawksbill turtles. Green turtle total abundance did not change during 2019−2022 (p > 0.05) but remained low when compared with 2003−2018 estimates and 2019−2030 predictions. Hawksbill turtle total abundance declined between 2020 and 2021 (z = 2.15, p = 0.03) and increased between 2021 and 2022 (z = −3.04, p = 0.002), but 2019−2022 estimates were similar to 2003−2018 estimates and 2019−2030 predictions. Our methodology can be used to monitor sea turtle populations at coastal foraging grounds in the Caribbean.
Large grazers (megaherbivores) have a profound impact on ecosystem functioning. However, how ecosystem multifunctionality is affected by changes in megaherbivore populations remains poorly understood. Understanding the total impact on ecosystem multifunctionality requires an integrative ecosystem approach, which is especially challenging to obtain in marine systems. We assessed the effects of experimentally simulated grazing intensity scenarios on ecosystem functions and multifunctionality in a tropical Caribbean seagrass ecosystem. As a model, we selected a key marine megaherbivore, the green turtle, whose ecological role is rapidly unfolding in numerous foraging areas where populations are recovering through conservation after centuries of decline, with an increase in recorded overgrazing episodes. To quantify the effects, we employed a novel integrated index of seagrass ecosystem multifunctionality based upon multiple, well-recognized measures of seagrass ecosystem functions that reflect ecosystem services. Experiments revealed that intermediate turtle grazing resulted in the highest rates of nutrient cycling and carbon storage, while sediment stabilization, decomposition rates, epifauna richness, and fish biomass are highest in the absence of turtle grazing. In contrast, intense grazing resulted in disproportionally large effects on ecosystem functions and a collapse of multifunctionality. These results imply that (i) the return of a megaherbivore can exert strong effects on coastal ecosystem functions and multifunctionality, (ii) conservation efforts that are skewed toward megaherbivores, but ignore their key drivers like predators or habitat, will likely result in overgrazing-induced loss of multifunctionality, and (iii) the multifunctionality index shows great potential as a quantitative tool to assess ecosystem performance. Considerable and rapid alterations in megaherbivore abundance (both through extinction and conservation) cause an imbalance in ecosystem functioning and substantially alter or even compromise ecosystem services that help to negate global change effects. An integrative ecosystem approach in environmental management is urgently required to protect and enhance ecosystem multifunctionality.
Seven species of turtles are present in a wide range of areas across the earth. The species that use
the beaches of Sint Maarten as nesting grounds are the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas),
Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Even with their protected status, populations are declining rapidly. This has a negative impact since
sea turtles have significant ecological, economic and social values. To prevent populations from
declining further, research is needed to create proper conservation strategies. This research focuses
on different factors that could hinder nesting activity and how they influence sea turtles on Sint
Maarten. These potential factors were researched in the literature and were determined to be
artificial lighting, dune scarps, coastal development, slope, distance from high tide line to beach line,
sargassum and human disturbances. Using a Spearman correlation test in SPSS, the correlation
between the presence of these factors and the total nesting activity that takes place was tested. The
test showed a moderate negative relation which was statistically significant
(rs = -.681, p = .044). This means that the number of factors that are present at each beach influence
the total nesting activity to some extent, but no strong correlation is present. These results indicate
that if more factors which could hinder the sea turtle nesting activity are present, less sea turtle
nesting activities take place on that beach on St. Maarten.
Feeding wildlife as a tourist activity is a growing industry around the world. However,providing alternative food sources can affect wildlife ecology and behaviour. In this study,we combined animal-borne cameras onfive sub-adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas) from the Bahamas with a global review to directly assess impacts of provisioning on thebehaviour of an endangered marine species for the first time. Descriptive evidence from video footage, with videos included in the manuscript, showed that the tagged turtles spent 86% of their time in shallow water (<1.5 m) at a provisioning site. All individuals observed, both tagged and untagged, actively approached people and boats, with up to 10 turtles recorded feeding on squid offered by tourists at one time. During these feeding events, multiple accounts of atypical aggressive behaviour such as biting and ramming conspecifics were recorded. Furthermore, a review of online sources revealed the wide-spread significance of turtle feeding as a tourist activity in at least 20 locations within the global range of green sea turtles, as well as five locations with regular provisioning ofeither loggerhead (Caretta Caretta) or hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbracata) turtles. At the majority of the locations, turtles were fed animal matter such as fish scraps and squid. Although sample size limited quantitative analyses, we found indications of relatively high growth rates of two tagged turtles and low seagrass intake rates of all five tagged turtles.Therefore, our results emphasize the need to further investigate the impacts of turtle provisioning on natural foraging behaviour, ecosystem functioning as well as turtle growth rates and health implications. Supplemental feeding may increase habituation and dependency of turtles on humans with risks for turtle conservation. The innovative use of animal-borne camera technology may provide novel insights to behavioural consequences of human-wildlife interactions that can aid in the management and conservation of rare or endangered species