FIU graduate student Elizabeth Whitman asked me to post this. I am really interested as there are SO many green turtles these days. I predict we will much taller seagrass in the turtle exclosures after only months.
If you’ve ever explored the tidal creek systems of Abaco, you probably noticed that’s is a preferred hangout for juvenile green sea turtles. Abundant seagrass food resources and refuge from predators make these creeks attractive to turtles who will remain there for 10-20 years while they grow and mature to reproductive age.
We are now conducting research into what factors affect the habitat use of green sea turtles, and in turn, how green sea turtles are affecting creek ecosystems through grazing on seagrasses. To do so, I have set up an exclosure experiment consisting of five replicate plots of each of three treatments at sights in the tidal creek systems of the Bight of Old Robinson, Snake Cay, and Hill’s Creek. All cages were constructed on snorkel using cable ties, rebar stakes, and poultry netting (Figure 1). Full excluder cages fully enclose approximately 3.6 m2 plots and exclude all organisms smaller than the mesh size (Figure 2). Cage controls have one open side to allow fish and turtles to enter the enclosed area (Figure 3). Control plots are marked by single rebar stakes, and all plots are marked with a buoy that is visible on the surface of the water at high tide. Written on the buoys is the work “RESEARCH” and my personal Bahamian phone number so I can be contacted with any questions or concerns regarding the setup. Data collection, will include assessments of seagrasses and macroalgae abundance within each plot, and seagrass and water samples will be analyzed upon my return to my lab at Florida International University.