Incorporating multidimensional behavior into a risk management tool for a critically endangered and migratory species

Barbour N, Shillinger GL, Gurarie E, et al (2023) Incorporating multidimensional behavior into a risk management tool for a critically endangered and migratory species. Conservation Biology 37:e14114.

Conservation of migratory species exhibiting wide-ranging and multidimensional behaviors is challenged by management efforts that only utilize horizontal movements or produce static spatial–temporal products. For the deep-diving, critically endangered eastern Pacific leatherback turtle, tools that predict where turtles have high risks of fisheries interactions are urgently needed to prevent further population decline. We incorporated horizontal–vertical movement model results with spatial–temporal kernel density estimates and threat data (gear-specific fishing) to develop monthly maps of spatial risk. Specifically, we applied multistate hidden Markov models to a biotelemetry data set (n = 28 leatherback tracks, 2004–2007). Tracks with dive information were used to characterize turtle behavior as belonging to 1 of 3 states (transiting, residential with mixed diving, and residential with deep diving). Recent fishing effort data from Global Fishing Watch were integrated with predicted behaviors and monthly space-use estimates to create maps of relative risk of turtle–fisheries interactions. Drifting (pelagic) longline fishing gear had the highest average monthly fishing effort in the study region, and risk indices showed this gear to also have the greatest potential for high-risk interactions with turtles in a residential, deep-diving behavioral state. Monthly relative risk surfaces for all gears and behaviors were added to South Pacific TurtleWatch (SPTW) (, a dynamic management tool for this leatherback population. These modifications will refine SPTW's capability to provide important predictions of potential high-risk bycatch areas for turtles undertaking specific behaviors. Our results demonstrate how multidimensional movement data, spatial–temporal density estimates, and threat data can be used to create a unique conservation tool. These methods serve as a framework for incorporating behavior into similar tools for other aquatic, aerial, and terrestrial taxa with multidimensional movement behaviors.