Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Where conservation resources are limited and conservation targets are diverse, robust yet flexible priority-setting frameworks are vital. Priority-setting is especially important for geographically widespread species with distinct populations subject to multiple threats that operate on different spatial and temporal scales. Marine turtles are widely distributed and exhibit intra-specific variations in population sizes and trends, as well as reproduction and morphology. However, current global extinction risk assessment frameworks do not assess conservation status of spatially and biologically distinct marine turtle Regional Management Units (RMUs), and thus do not capture variations in population trends, impacts of threats, or necessary conservation actions across individual populations. To address this issue, we developed a new assessment framework that allowed us to evaluate, compare and organize marine turtle RMUs according to status and threats criteria. Because conservation priorities can vary widely (i.e. from avoiding imminent extinction to maintaining long-term monitoring efforts) we developed a "conservation priorities portfolio" system using categories of paired risk and threats scores for all RMUs (n = 58). We performed these assessments and rankings globally, by species, by ocean basin, and by recognized geopolitical bodies to identify patterns in risk, threats, and data gaps at different scales. This process resulted in characterization of risk and threats to all marine turtle RMUs, including identification of the world's 11 most endangered marine turtle RMUs based on highest risk and threats scores. This system also highlighted important gaps in available information that is crucial for accurate conservation assessments. Overall, this priority-setting framework can provide guidance for research and conservation priorities at multiple relevant scales, and should serve as a model for conservation status assessments and priority-setting for widespread, long-lived taxa.
LEATHERBACK TURTLE; SEA-TURTLES; POPULATION; MANAGEMENT; PACIFIC; RECOVERY
This study was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Offield Family Foundation. These funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. MYC is employed by a commercial company (Ecological Modelling Services, Pty Ltd) that provides ecological modeling services, and his involvement in all aspects of this study was partially supported by this company. However, this support in no way biased his contributions to all aspects of this study, the overall process or resulting products generated by this study.
Wallace BP, DiMatteo AD, Bolten AB, Chaloupka MY, Hutchinson BJ, et al. (2011) Global Conservation Priorities for Marine Turtles. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24510. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024510