The Green Agenda: Pioneering Mapping of Turtle Habitats and Their Threats in The Ionian


DECEMBER 6, 2022

by Nikos Avoukatos

The Ionian Environment Foundation supported research conducted by the Department of Biology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with the aim of promoting the improvement of our understanding of the habitats of sea turtles and their threats in the Ionian Archipelago. The findings, and a set of adaptive management proposals, as they emerge from the project, can drastically contribute to existing conservation efforts while paving the way  for the revision of conservation practices and strategies in the wider Ionian region.

The ARIANA project improves our knowledge so far on the use of pelagic and oceanic marine turtle habitats in the Ionian Archipelago,  providing a coherent framework for their management. The European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 stipulates that by 2030 Member States should protect 30% of their marine and land systems.  Visiting and assessing the ecological status and value for every part of our seas is practically impossible. “What we can do is make the best use of new technologies and make the most of the possibilities they offer us. Thus, in ARIANA, data from field surveys, satellite recordings and bibliographic sources are the basis for the development of ecological models for spatial identification and imaging of the valuable marine habitats of turtles in the Ionian Archipelago.  The predictive capacity of these models is assessed by carrying out additional focused field work using unmanned aerial vehicles, leading to a gradual optimization of the produced result,” explains associate professor of the Department of Biology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Antonis Mazaris .

The ARIANA project  took the first step towards the spatial delimitation of the main foraging areas of sea turtles in the Ionian Archipelago. At the same time, utilizing a large-scale dataset on the spatial distribution of human activities, it produced spatially exclusive risk assessments.  The AUTh team developed cumulative pressure indicators allowing the emergence of invisible interactions of human activities and sea turtles in the Ionian sea area. In combination, sea turtle stranding data were collected and analyzed, allowing the emergence of spatio-temporal patterns of space use and the threats of sea turtles.

“We know that there are important nesting beaches in the area for the Caretta caretta. We know that there are some feeding areas. What we learned from ARIANA is that the waters of the  Ionian Sea are home throughout the year to juveniles and adult turtles, both female and male. This report is not accidental, since, globally, our knowledge of the areas of development of underage sea turtles is terribly limited. At the same time, we must not forget that the sex of the chicks of sea turtles is determined by the temperature . The global warming in recent decades leads to greater production of female turtles, increasing the risk that in the coming years we will have minimal numbers of males, which may affect the reproductive process and consequently the viability of populations.  ARIANA therefore shows us that the Ionian Sea is a unique area worldwide where a large number of male turtles live and which includes not only nesting areas and migration corridors, but also a plethora of growth and foraging areas for all sea turtle age classes,” Mazaris told Greenagenda. Gr.

The concept of adaptive management was used as a basis for the development of a modelling framework for monitoring and evaluating proposed conservation strategies in the Ionian Archipelago while ARIANA developed a set of monitoring protocols to enhance adaptive management using new technologies.

“As competition for the use of maritime space increases, the European Union, looking to the future through the Green Deal, seeks to preserve unique marine ecosystems. The European Directives and Strategies set out the objectives and the way in which this should happen, but there are key obstacles to overcome. The main one is the availability of data, which reflects which areas need protection and regulation of activities. Recognizing this challenge and the uniqueness of the Ionian nature, the Ionian Environmental Foundation strives to enhance our knowledge of the area, strengthening our efforts for protection and conservation. ARIANA is a mirror of our goals and actions by offering information and data that can significantly enhance customized management,” Victoria Turner, executive director of the Ionian Environment Foundation, explains to Green Agenda.Gr.

ARIANA, therefore, achieves for the first time the identification of spatially critical areas for the management of sea turtles in the Ionian Archipelago,  providing a plethora of assessments, background data and theoretical frameworks, reinforcing the objectives of the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.

Green Agenda Gr

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