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Sci Rep. 2019 Oct 7;9(1):14392. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-50753-5.

Population recovery changes population composition at a major southern Caribbean juvenile developmental habitat for the green turtle, Chelonia mydas.

Author information

1
Marine Evolution and Conservation, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, Nijenborg 7, 9747 AG, Groningen, The Netherlands. j.p.van.der.zee@rug.nl.
2
Wageningen Marine Research, Ankerpark 27, 1781 AG, Den Helder, The Netherlands. j.p.van.der.zee@rug.nl.
3
Marine Evolution and Conservation, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, Nijenborg 7, 9747 AG, Groningen, The Netherlands.
4
Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Wageningen University & Research, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
5
Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, P.O. Box 492, Kaya Korona 53, Kralendijk, Bonaire, The Netherlands.
6
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC, USA.
7
Center for Coastal Studies, 5 Holway Avenue, Provincetown, MA, 02657, USA.
8
WWF Guianas, Henck Arronstraat 63, Paramaribo, Suriname.
9
ONCFS Guyane, Campus Agronomique, BP316, 97379, Kourou, French Guiana.
10
RNN Amana, Réserve Naturelle de l'Amana, Maison de la Réserve, 270 Avenue 31 Décembre, 97319, Awala-Yalimapo, French Guiana.
11
Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, IPHC, 23 Rue Becquerel, UMR, 7178, Strasbourg, France.
12
Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research and Department of Biology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 118525, Gainesville, FL, 32611, USA.
13
Wageningen Marine Research, Ankerpark 27, 1781 AG, Den Helder, The Netherlands.
14
Marine Animal Ecology Group, Wageningen University & Research, P.O. Box 338, 6700 AH, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Understanding the population composition and dynamics of migratory megafauna at key developmental habitats is critical for conservation and management. The present study investigated whether differential recovery of Caribbean green turtle (Chelonia mydas) rookeries influenced population composition at a major juvenile feeding ground in the southern Caribbean (Lac Bay, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands) using genetic and demographic analyses. Genetic divergence indicated a strong temporal shift in population composition between 2006-2007 and 2015-2016 (ϕST = 0.101, P < 0.001). Juvenile recruitment (<75.0 cm straight carapace length; SCL) from the north-western Caribbean increased from 12% to 38% while recruitment from the eastern Caribbean region decreased from 46% to 20% between 2006-2007 and 2015-2016. Furthermore, the product of the population growth rate and adult female abundance was a significant predictor for population composition in 2015-2016. Our results may reflect early warning signals of declining reproductive output at eastern Caribbean rookeries, potential displacement effects of smaller rookeries by larger rookeries, and advocate for genetic monitoring as a useful method for monitoring trends in juvenile megafauna. Furthermore, these findings underline the need for adequate conservation of juvenile developmental habitats and a deeper understanding of the interactions between megafaunal population dynamics in different habitats.

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