Archived project

Australia: Monitoring & protecting flatback turtles along the coastline of Western Australia through citizen science

Goal: Monitoring & protecting flatback turtles along the coastline of Western Australia through citizen science. OUTCOME: This expedition ran from 2010 to 2011 and was about the conservation of the Australian flatback turtle. When Australia created the world's largest network of marine reserves in 2012, the Roebuck Commonwealth Marine Reserve, site of the expedition, was made part of the network, and is described as ‘foraging area adjacent to important nesting sites for flatback turtles’, just as suggested in the expedition reports.

Date: 8 November 2010 - 7 May 2012

Updates
0 new
0
Recommendations
0 new
0
Followers
0 new
0
Reads
1 new
141

Project log

Matthias Hammer
added 2 research items
Executive Summary The nesting population of Australian flatback (Natator depressus) sea turtles at Eco Beach continues as the focus of this annual program which gathers valuable data on the species, monitors dynamic changes to the nesting environment and acts as a strong base for environmental teaching and training of all program participants. Whilst not as high a density Western Australian nesting population as Cape Domett, Barrow Island or the Pilbara region, the Eco Beach population remains significant for the following reasons: • The 12km nesting beach and survey area is free from human development which can impact on nesting turtles and hatchlings. • The beach and almost non-existent nesting dune are subject to strong winds and high tides in excess of 10m, which combined results in highly changeable beach dynamics and a loss of nests. • Satellite transmitter tracking of female flatbacks indicates migratory routes different from those of previously tracked southern stocks. • High nest temperatures above an expected embryo mortality level continue to produce nest hatch success rates to 100%. • 88% of flatbacks seen in 2011 were from past tagging years (2008 onwards) and of the 32 remigrants seen over the years, 75% have nested on a one year cycle when a (published) two to five year cycle would be expected. The Eco Beach Sea Turtle Monitoring Program, managed by Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), is a Wild Futures initiative. Wild Futures is working to protect key species including flatbacks and their habitats in this West Kimberley region. Science-based survey work commenced at Eco Beach in October 2008 and continues today. The flatback sea turtle remains listed internationally as Data Deficient (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species). Flatbacks in Western Australia are listed as Vulnerable. The data gained from the 2011 Eco Beach nesting season will add strength to other existing flatback monitoring programs and in time should enable a more accurate reflection and management of the species. The 2011 Eco Beach Sea Turtle Monitoring Program tagging component, to which this report primarily relates, produced 202 data registrations comprising 67 nests and 135 false crawls (an incomplete nest with no eggs deposited) over a 40 night period. Despite high beach dynamics and some nest predation by native animals during the nesting and hatchling period, an average of 83% hatchling emergence was recorded from exhumed nests. Twenty nine individual flatbacks and one hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) were identified by the patrols with an interclutch interval of 11 nights between nests for flatbacks, an average of 46 eggs and an average incubation period of 49 days. The hawksbill did not nest successfully and was only sighted once. Remigrant turtles tagged from past years continued to nest successfully during the 2011 season, with one turtle now seen nesting each year since the program began in 2008. This turtle (tag numbers WA52477 and WA83854) became one of four turtles also fitted with a Platform Terminal Transmitter (PTT). Deployments occurred between 10th and 16th December 2011 utilising flatback turtle harnesses and MK10-AF Fastloc transmitters. The daily progress of these and other tracked flatbacks from the program can be viewed at www.seaturtle.org listed as CVA - Eco Beach Flatback Monitoring Program.
Abstract The nesting population of Australian flatback (Natator depressus) sea turtles at Eco Beach, Western Australia, continues to be the focus of this annual programme, which resumes gathering valuable data on the species, dynamic changes to the nesting environment and a strong base for environmental teaching and training of all programme participants. Whilst the Eco Beach population is not as high in density as other Western Australian nesting populations at Cape Domett, Barrow Island or the Pilbara region, it remains significant for the following reasons: • The 12 km nesting beach and survey area is free from human development, which can impact on nesting turtles and hatchlings. • The beach and almost non-existent nesting dune are subject to strong winds and high tides in excess of 10 m which, when combined, result in highly changeable beach dynamics and a loss of nests. • Satellite transmitter tracking of female flatbacks indicates migratory routes are different from those of previously tracked southern stocks. • High nest temperatures above an expected embryo mortality level are producing nest hatch success rates to 100%. • 22% of turtles tagged so far have nested on a one year interval when a (published) two to five year cycle would be expected. The Eco Beach Sea Turtle Monitoring Programme, managed by Conservation Volunteers with assistance from Biosphere Expeditions and others, is a Wild Futures initiative. Wild Futures is working to protect key species including flatbacks and their habitats in this West Kimberley region. Science-based survey work commenced at Eco Beach in October 2008 and continues today. The flatback sea turtle is currently listed internationally as Data Deficient (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) with a review to a potential Vulnerable classification still underway. Flatbacks in Western Australia are listed as Vulnerable. The data gained from the 2010 Eco Beach nesting season will add strength to other existing flatback monitoring programmes and in time should enable a more accurate reflection and management of the species. The 2010 Eco Beach Sea Turtle Monitoring Programme tagging component, to which this report primarily relates, produced 217 data registrations comprising 65 nests and 152 false crawls (an incomplete nest with no eggs deposited) over a 40 night period. Despite high beach dynamics and nest predation by native animals during the nesting and hatchling period, an average of 87% hatchling emergence was recorded from exhumed nests. Forty-two individual flatbacks (the only species recorded nesting) were identified by the patrols with an interclutch interval of 11 nights between nests. Fourteen re-migrant turtles tagged in previous years were observed successfully nesting during 2010 and two turtles tagged in 2008 have nested each year since. DNA samples from all encountered turtles were taken and two Platform Terminal Transmitters (PTT) deployed on 17 November and 16 December 2010. The daily progress of tracked flatbacks from the programme can be viewed at www.seaturtle.org listed as CVA Eco Beach, Western Australia - Flatback Monitoring Programme. Key recommendations for the programme include a continuation of the conservation and research actions and adding to the dataset, relocation of doomed nests, which will be washed away by imminent high tides, further monitoring of nest predation levels, and an increased level of PTT tracking of future nesting Australian flatbacks.
Matthias Hammer
added a project goal
Monitoring & protecting flatback turtles along the coastline of Western Australia through citizen science. OUTCOME: This expedition ran from 2010 to 2011 and was about the conservation of the Australian flatback turtle. When Australia created the world's largest network of marine reserves in 2012, the Roebuck Commonwealth Marine Reserve, site of the expedition, was made part of the network, and is described as ‘foraging area adjacent to important nesting sites for flatback turtles’, just as suggested in the expedition reports.