Global Conservation Priorities for Marine Turtles

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.

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Wallace Bryan P., Dimatteo Andrew D., Bolten Alan B., Chaloupka Milani Y., Hutchinson Brian J., Abreu-Grobois F. Alberto, Mortimer Jeanne A., Seminoff Jeffrey A., Amorocho Diego, Bjorndal Karen A., Bourjea Jerome, Bowen Brian W., Briseno Duenas Raquel, Casale Paolo, Choudhury B. C., Costa Alice, Dutton Peter H., Fallabrino Alejandro, Finkbeiner Elena M., Girard Alexandre, Girondot Marc, Hamann Mark, Hurley Brendan J., Lopez-Mendilaharsu Milagros, Angela Marcovaldi Maria, Musick John A., Nel Ronel, Pilcher Nicolas J., Troeng Sebastian, Witherington Blair, Mast Roderic B. (2011). Global Conservation Priorities for Marine Turtles. Plos One. 6 (9). 1-14.,

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