Present address: Bangor University, Brambell Laboratories E30, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW, UK.
Home on the range: spatial ecology of loggerhead turtles in Atlantic waters of the USA
Article first published online: 8 JUN 2011
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Diversity and Distributions
Volume 17, Issue 4, pages 624–640, July 2011
How to Cite
Hawkes, L. A., Witt, M. J., Broderick, A. C., Coker, J. W., Coyne, M. S., Dodd, M., Frick, M. G., Godfrey, M. H., Griffin, D. B., Murphy, S. R., Murphy, T. M., Williams, K. L. and Godley, B. J. (2011), Home on the range: spatial ecology of loggerhead turtles in Atlantic waters of the USA. Diversity and Distributions, 17: 624–640. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00768.x
- Issue published online: 8 JUN 2011
- Article first published online: 8 JUN 2011
- Environmental niche;
- habitat model;
- ocean management;
- satellite tracking;
- spatial ecology
Aim Although satellite tracking has yielded much information regarding the migrations and habitat use of threatened marine species, relatively little has been published about the environmental niche for loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta in north-west Atlantic waters.
Location North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, USA.
Methods We tracked 68 adult female turtles between 1998 and 2008, one of the largest sample sizes to date, for 372.2 ± 210.4 days (mean ± SD).
Results We identified two strategies: (1) ‘seasonal’ migrations between summer and winter coastal areas (n = 47), although some turtles made oceanic excursions (n = 4) and (2) occupation of more southerly ‘year-round’ ranges (n = 18). Seasonal turtles occupied summer home ranges of 645.1 km2 (median, n = 42; using α-hulls) predominantly north of 35 ° latitude and winter home ranges of 339.0 km2 (n = 24) in a relatively small area on the narrow shelf off North Carolina. We tracked some of these turtles through successive summer (n = 8) and winter (n = 3) seasons, showing inter-annual home range repeatability to within 14.5 km of summer areas and 10.3 km of winter areas. For year-round turtles, home ranges were 1889.9 km2. Turtles should be tracked for at least 80 days to reliably estimate the home range size in seasonal habitats. The equivalent minimum duration for ‘year-round’ turtles is more complex to derive. We define an environmental envelope of the distribution of North American loggerhead turtles: warm waters (between 18.2 and 29.2 °C) on the coastal shelf (in depths of 3.0–89.0 m).
Main conclusions Our findings show that adult female loggerhead turtles show predictable, repeatable home range behaviour and do not generally leave waters of the USA, nor the continental shelf (< 200m depth). These data offer insights for future marine management, particularly if they were combined with those from the other management units in the USA.