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The potential of marginal coastal nursery habitats for the conservation of a culturally important Caribbean marine species

Abstract : Aim: Identifying the potential of marginal habitats for species conservation is of key importance when their core high-quality habitats are under substantial disturbances and threats. However, there is currently a knowledge gap on how useful marine marginal habitats may be for conserving endangered marine species. Here, we investigate the potential of groundwater-fed coastal areas for the conservation of the queen conch, an economically and culturally important marine gastropod. Location: The inlet of Xel-Há, typical of groundwater-fed coastal areas widely distributed along the Yucatan Peninsula coast in Mexico and partially protected by a network of marine protected areas. Methods: We tracked 66 queen conchs (Lobatus gigas) using acoustic telemetry over a period of 3.5 years. We investigated for ontogenetic niche shift using a network analysis and by modelling their growth. Results: The queen conchs exhibited the same ontogenetic niche shift required to complete their life cycle in this marginal habitat as they do in offshore core habitats. A total of 33 individuals departed the inlet and migrated from shallow groundwater affected nursery grounds to deeper marine habitats more suitable for breeding aggregation. Main conclusions: As the broad-scale movement behaviour of queen conch in this inlet is similar to that observed on the overfished core habitats, our findings suggest that groundwater-fed coastal areas should be included in conservation planning for an effective management of this species within a network of marine protected areas.
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Thomas Stieglitz, Antoine M. Dujon, Joanne R. Peel, Erwan Amice. The potential of marginal coastal nursery habitats for the conservation of a culturally important Caribbean marine species. Diversity and Distributions, 2020, 26 (5), pp.565-574. ⟨10.1111/ddi.13044⟩. ⟨ird-02488349⟩



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