DRY TORTUGAS, Fla. Nesting green sea turtles are benefiting from marine protected areas by using habitats found within their boundaries, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study that is the first to track the federally protected turtles in Dry Tortugas National Park.
Green turtles are listed as endangered in Florida and threatened throughout the rest of their range, and the habits of green sea turtles after their forays to nest on beaches in the Southeast U.S. have long remained a mystery. Until now, it was not clear whether the turtles made use of existing protected areas, and few details were available as to whether they were suited for supporting the green sea turtle's survival.
U.S. Geological Survey researchers confirmed the turtles' use of the protected areas by tracking nesting turtles with satellite tags and analyzing their movement patterns after they left beaches.
"Our goal was to better understand what types of habitats they used at sea and whether they were in fact putting these designated areas to use. This study not only shows managers that these designated protected areas are already being used by turtles, but provides insight into the types of habitats they use most," said the study's lead author, Kristen Hart, who works as a research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey.
Hart's team made the discovery by fitting green sea turtle mothers with satellite tags after they came onto beaches within Dry Tortugas National Park to nest. After tracking their movements and analyzing their time at sea, the team located the areas turtles used between their nesting events and determined where turtles traveled after the nesting season was over.
They found green sea turtles spending much of their time in protected sites within both Dry Tortugas National Park and the surrounding areas of the Florida Keys Marine National Sanctuary.
"We were thrilled to find that these turtles used some areas already u
|Contact: Kristin Hart|
United States Geological Survey