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Satellite tracking reveals use of Biscayne National Park by sea turtles tagged in multiple locations

July 29, 2023

Although historical observations date back to the 1800’s, there is little information on sea turtle occupancy within Biscayne National Park (BNP). The park is located along the Florida reef tract and is dominated by the Gulfstream, which acts as a corridor for many marine animals. Here we used satellite telemetry to determine areas of use in BNP for two species of imperiled sea turtles, loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green (Chelonia mydas) turtles. We included data for turtles tagged between 2009–2021 at sites both within park waters and in five locations outside the park boundary; individuals were captured both in the water and on land. We tagged 60 individuals (female, n =">= 48; male, n =">= 3; immature, n =">= 9); loggerheads (n =">= 33) ranged in size from 66.2 to 109.9 cm CCL (curved carapace length) and green turtles (n =">= 27) ranged in size from 39.1 to 111.9 cm CCL. We used behavioral switching state-space modeling (SSM) to obtain daily predicted positions for each turtle, classified turtle behavior within the park as either foraging, migration, or both foraging and migration, and summarized high-use areas for each species across all months of the year. Turtles used park waters year-round, with concentrated use of deeper waters during seasonal migrations. Across all 60 turtles, 21 spent their tracking time foraging within BNP boundaries and 30 used the park as part of their migratory pathway; five turtles used the park for both foraging and migration, and the remaining four had SSM points very close to the park. Loggerhead migration occurred from February through November, whereas green turtle migration was concentrated in August. Both turtle species exhibited high overlap (i.e., usage) with seagrass habitat. These findings are relevant as managers consider strategies to minimize anthropogenic impacts to resident and migratory sea turtles using park waters.

Publication Year 2023
Title Satellite tracking reveals use of Biscayne National Park by sea turtles tagged in multiple locations
DOI 10.1016/j.rsma.2023.103098
Authors Kristen Hart, Allison Benscoter, Haley M. Turner, Michael Cherkiss, Andrew Crowder, Jacquelyn C. Guzy, David Roche, Christopher R. Sasso, Glenn D. Goodwin, Derek A. Burkholder
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Regional Studies in Marine Science
Index ID 70247915
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center