Abstracts on Global Climate Change

May 2007

Spatio-temporal patterns of juvenile marine turtle occurrence in waters of the European continental shelf

Witt, MJ Penrose, R Godley, BJ

MARINE BIOLOGY 151:3 873-885

We present data spanning approximately 100 years regarding the spatial and temporal occurrence of marine turtle sightings and strandings in the northeast Atlantic from two public recording schemes and demonstrate potential signals of changing population status. Records of loggerhead (n = 317) and Kemp’s ridley (n = 44) turtles occurring on the European continental shelf were most prevalent during the autumn and winter, when waters were coolest. In contrast, endothermic leatherback turtles (n = 1,668) were most common during the summer. Analysis of the spatial distribution of hard-shell marine turtle sightings and strandings highlights a pattern of decreasing records with increasing latitude. The spatial distribution of sighting and stranding records indicates that arrival in waters of the European continental shelf is most likely driven by North Atlantic current systems. Future patterns of spatial-temporal distribution, gathered from the periphery of juvenile marine turtles habitat range, may allow for a broader assessment of the future impacts of global climate change on species range and population size.

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