Published online today in the journal ‘Ecosphere’, are the findings of a four-year study that tracked the movements of 47 flatback turtles as they moved offshore after nesting in the North-West Shelf (NWS) of Western Australia.
Between 2006 and 2010, satellite transmitters were attached to turtles on nesting beaches at Ashburton, Barrow and Thevenard Islands in the NWS and Mundabullangana and Cemetery beach on the mainland coast of the Pilbara.
The article focuses on the habitat type selected by the turtles when inter-nesting (the period between laying each nest). An ecological niche-based modelling technique was used to define the environmental characteristics of this habitat and identify the location of similar areas across the entire NWS shelf.
The suitable habitat areas were then integrated with resource sector hazards to identify the potential for interaction between flatback turtles and resource sector activities. The authors used this information to quantify the hazard exposure of flatback turtles during the inter-nesting period.
The information can be used to reduce the risk to flatback turtles from coastal development in the region by supporting effective and appropriate decision-making for future development. Regulators can now assess development proposals armed with information that tells them where these turtles are and how the resource industry can avoid impacting them.
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