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Institute for Coastal and Marine Research

Spatial planning for migratory species: sea turtles in the Western Indian Ocean as a test case

Investigators: Linda Harris and Ronel Nel
Collaborating Institutions: NMMU Coastal and Marine Research Unit
Email contact: Linda Harris

Signatory States to the Indian Ocean and South East Asia Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (IOSEA) have recently resolved to establish a Network of Sites of Importance for Marine Turtles in the Indian Ocean - South-East Asia Region. Establishing this network therefore requires identification and nomination of appropriate candidate sites for possible inclusion in the network. While the formal nomination process is undertaken by focal points of the Signatory States, this research focuses on using a spatially-explicit methodology to support the parallel nomination process, where suggestions for candidate sites are solicited from experts. This methodology is currently being applied to the Western Indian Ocean region as a test case. Digital maps of: turtle distributions at sea; turtle-associated habitats (nesting beaches, coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, and sea-mounts); and threats (15 threats ranging from storm impacts to dynamite fishing) are being compiled from existing sources, and/or created for the purposes of the project. These maps will be integrated, and subjected to systematic conservation planning (SCP) analyses using Marxan software. While SCP is traditionally used to design reserve (protected area) networks, we plan to adapt the analyses to meet the objectives of the IOSEA Site Network.

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