Understanding the effects of climate change on Caribbean hawksbill turtles: satellite tracking hawksbill migrations
A project of WWF in conjunction with the partners and sponsors detailed below.
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The ecological decisions that influence hawksbill turtle migration are little understood and have not been investigated. Understanding the environmental and biological parameters that guide hawksbill migration (environmental features such as thermal fronts, sea surface currents and ocean depth) is key to understanding how hawksbill turtle populations may be able to cope with the adverse affects of climate change in the future. The only means by which this information currently can be obtained for migrating turtles at large is through satellite telemetry. Using ARGOS linked satellite transmitting units, an individual can be deployed and its locations tracked, environmental variables of its habitat obtained and a greater understanding of hawksbill migratory ecology gained. This information will then be used in conjunction with available information from other tracking studies to quantify the environmental “envelope” that Caribbean hawksbill turtles generally occupy. Future predicted changes in surface temperatures and currents can then be modeled more accurately and realistically
To date, no units have been deployed from the Dominican Republic, an island nation that receives a significant number of leatherback nests as well as hawksbill nests. The Dominican Republic is ideally situated to investigate the environmental parameters that may influence hawksbill migration: relatively central to the insular Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is surrounded by important Caribbean oceanographic features which may be important factors in determining the migratory paths.
This project is a collaborative partnership between:
1. The World Wildlife Fund
The LAC (Latin America and Caribbean) works to achieve an action based approach to the regional conservation challenge of marine turtle conservation. They have collaborated with the WWF Ottawa (Canada) office to orchestrate the deployment of satellite transmitters on Caribbean hawksbill turtles. Based in the Costa Rica office, the staff there will collaborate with:
2. The Marine Turtle Research Group (University of Exeter)
The MTRG has dedicated specialists in many aspects of marine turtle ecology and have a demonstrated success in successful deployment of satellite transmitters on a variety of marine turtle species. In collaboration with the University of Valencia, Spain, Dr Jesus Tomas will represent the MTRG.
3. Grupo Jaragua project, Dominican Republic
Represented and staffed by Dr Jesus Tomas and Dr Yolanda Leon, Grupo Jaragua will provide the local expertise and logistical support for the deployment of the units. Grupo Jaragua has been monitoring nesting by hawksbill and leatherback turtles on the beaches of the DR for many years.
4. The ACT initiative
Funded by the MacArthur Foundation, and formed in December 2007, the ACT initiative is trying to help understand the effects of climate change to marine turtle populations. By highlighting current knowledge and information gaps, ACT hopes to be able to design ways to mitigate the negative effects of climate change to turtles and to help to incorporate them into coastal planning.
5. INTEC and UASD
This project is funded by the J M Kaplan Fund, the Spanish Ministry of Education and Sciences.
Support was also provided by the AECI (Araucaria programme Spanish Cooperation Agency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the Foundation of the University of Valencia (UV).