2000 Progress Report: Evaluation of Alabama Estuaries as Developmental Habitat for Juvenile Sea Turtles

EPA Grant Number: R827072C011
Subproject: this is subproject number 011 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R827072
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Alabama Center For Estuarine Studies (ACES)
Center Director: Shipp, Robert L.
Title: Evaluation of Alabama Estuaries as Developmental Habitat for Juvenile Sea Turtles
Investigators: Nel, David , Marion, Ken , Wibbels, Thane
Institution: University of South Alabama
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2000
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2000
RFA: Alabama Center For Estuarine Studies (ACES) (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Restoration , Targeted Research


Estuarine ecosystems in the northern Gulf of Mexico are considered vital habitat for sea turtles, since they serve as developmental habitat for juveniles. Stranding data indicate that sea turtles such as Kemp's ridleys and loggerheads inhabit the nearshore waters and bay systems of Alabama, however such data is often anecdotal and does not identify specific foraging areas within these waters. Further, although the coast of Alabama represents one of the major estuarine systems in the northern Gulf of Mexico, we have only recently begun to systematically survey these waters for juvenile sea turtles. The presence of endangered sea turtles in estuaries represents a potential conflict for fisheries and coastal development. Optimal management strategy for estuaries should take into account the location of indigenous turtle stocks, in order to prevent potential conflicts.

Progress Summary:

The expanse of the Alabama bay systems together with factors such as the seasonal movements of sea turtles necessitates an extensive sampling regimen in order to accurately estimate the location and abundance of juvenile sea turtles in these waters. For example, similar projects in Florida and Texas have required a minimum of several years of sampling before they began to identify locations with a high abundance of sea turtles. Through ACES funding that began in 1999, we have been surveying the Alabama bays systems for sea turtles using a tangle net methodology coupled with observational surveys. We were initially unsuccessful in locating juvenile turtles, but during our second season of sampling we began to locate, tag, and monitor the movements of juvenile sea turtles. During 2000, we tagged and released two Kemp's ridleys near the Mobile Bay channel and we tracked one of the ridleys for a short time period. Additionally, we have begun to predictably capture or observe juvenile loggerhead sea turtles in Perdido Bay. Based on our success during the latter part of 2000, we are confident that our capture rate will continue to increase through the 2001 sampling season in certain areas (for example, Perdido Bay). As with many other sea turtle netting projects in the U.S., it has taken a significant amount of time and effort, but we have begun to make significant progress in evaluating the abundance and location of juvenile sea turtles in the Alabama bay systems. Based on our results from 1999-2000, juvenile sea turtles do not occur in high abundance in many areas of Alabama bays, but they may occasionally travel through these areas. Further, there are also areas that may prove to be potential feeding grounds where juveniles turtles may occur in relatively high abundance and may be captured in a predictable fashion. The information gained from this study is critical to the development of prudent management strategy for protecting sea turtles while sustaining the productivity of the fisheries.

Supplemental Keywords:

estuarine research, coastal ecosystem, human modifications, water use, watersheds, aquatic ecosystems, endangered species, Gulf of Mexico, sea turtles., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecology, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, estuarine research, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Chemistry, State, Restoration, Aquatic Ecosystem, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems, Habitat, Ecological Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, Ecological Risk Assessment, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, Ecological Indicators, Gulf of Mexico, coastal ecosystem, water use, watersheds, endangered species, estuaries, Alabama (AL), coastal environments, sea turtles, Alabama estuaries, ecosystem, juvenile sea turtles, environmental indicators, estuarine waters, water quality, human modifications

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R827072    Alabama Center For Estuarine Studies (ACES)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R827072C001 Fluorescent Whitening Agents As Facile Pollution Markers In Shellfishing Waters
    R827072C002 Red Snapper Demographics on Artificial Reefs: The Effect of Nearest-Neighbor Dynamics
    R827072C003 Stabilization of Eroding Shorelines in Estuarine Wave Eliminates with Constructed Fringe Wetlands Incorporating Offshore Breakwaters
    R827072C004 Interaction Between Water Column Structure and Reproduction in Jellyfish Populations Of Mobile Bay (SGER)
    R827072C005 Effects of Variation in River Discharge and Wind-Driven Resuspension on Higher Trophic Levels in the Mobile Bay Ecosystem
    R827072C006 Results of Zooplankton Component
    R827072C007 Benthic Study Component
    R827072C008 A Preliminary Survey of Macroalgal and Aquatic Plant Distribution in the Mobile Tensaw Delta
    R827072C009 Fisheries-induced changes in the structure and function of shallow water "nursery habitats": an experimental assessment
    R827072C010 Effects Of Variation in River Discharge and Wind-Driven Resuspension on Lower Trophic Levels of the Mobile Bay Ecosystem
    R827072C011 Evaluation of Alabama Estuaries as Developmental Habitat for Juvenile Sea Turtles
    R827072C012 Effects of Salinity Stress on Natural and Anthropogenically-Derived Bacteria in Estuarine Environments
    R827072C013 The Role of Land-Use/Land-Cover and Sub-estuarine Ecosystem Nitrogen Cycling in the Regulation of Nitrogen Delivery to a River Dominated Estuary; Mobile Bay, Alabama
    R827072C014 Environmental Attitudes of Alabama Coastal Residents: Public Opinion Polls and Environmental Policy
    R827072C015 Synthesis and Characterization of an Electrochemical Peptide Nucleic Acid Probe
    R827072C016 Determinants of Small-Scale Variation in the Abundance of the Blue Crab Callinectes Sapidus
    R827072C017 Effects of Estrogen Pollution on the Reproductive Fitness of the Gulf Pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli
    R827072C019 A Model for Genetic Diversity Aquatic Insects of the Mobile/Tensaw River Delta
    R827072C020 Evaluating Trophic Processes as Indicators of Anthropogenic Eutrophication in Coastal Ecosystems: An Exploratory Analysis
    R827072C021 Effects of Anthropogenic Eutrophication on the Magnitude and Trophic Fate of Microphytobenthic Production in Estuaries
    R827072C022 Characteristics of Ship Waves and Wind Waves in Mobile Bay
    R827072C023 Methods Comparison Between Stripping Voltammetry and Plasma Emission Spectroscopy for Metals in Mobile Bay
    R827072C024 Changes in Water Conditions and Sedimentation Rates Associated With Construction of the Mobile Bay Causeway
    R827072C025 Cold-Induced Hibernation of Marine Vibrios in the Gulf of Mexico: A Study of Cell-Cell Communication and Dormancy in Vibrio vulnificus
    R827072C026 Holocene Sedimentary History of Weeks Bay, AL: Human and Natural Impacts on Deposition in a Gulf Coast Estuary
    R827072C027 Shelter Bottlenecks and Self-Regulation in Blue Crab Populations: Assessing the Roles of Nursery Habitats and Juvenile Interactions for Shelter Dependent Organisms
    R827072C028 Predicting Seagrass Survival in Nutrient Enriched Waters: Toward a New View of an Existing Paradigm
    R827072C029 DMSP and its Role as an Antioxidant in the Salt Marsh Macrophyte Spartina alterniflora
    R827072C030 A Preliminary Survey of Aerial and Ground-Dwelling Insects of the Mobile/Tensaw Delta
    R827072C031 Natural Biogeochemical Tags of Striped Mullet, Mugil cephalus, Estuarine Nursery Areas in the North Central Gulf of Mexico
    R827072C032 Resolution of Sedimentation Rates in Impacted Coastal Environments Using 137Cs and 210Pb Markers: Dog River and Fowl River Embayments
    R827072C033 Investigation of the Use of Pulse Amplitude Modulated (PAM) Fluorometry as an Indicator of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Health in Mobile Bay
    R827072C034 Influence of Invasive Plant Species in Determining Diversity of Aquatic Vegetation in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta
    R827072C035 The Influence of Shallow Water Hydrodynamics on the Importance of Seagrass Detritus in Estuarine Food Webs
    R827072C036 Food Web Interactions, Spatial Subsidies and the Flow of Energy Between the Mobile Bay Delta and Offshore Waters: A SGER Proposal to the Alabama Center for Estuarine Studies
    R830651C001 Meteorological Modeling of Hurricanes and Coastal Interactions: A Stability Study For Vertical Pressure Levels
    R830651C002 Characterization of Glycoprotein Cues Used by the Parasitic Rhizocephalan Barnacle Loxothylacus texanus To Identify Its Blue Crab Host, Callinectes sapidus
    R830651C003 Survey of Diamondback Terrapin Populations in Alabama Estuaries
    R830651C004 An Assessment of Environmental Contaminant Levels in Water and Dragonfly Larvae Tissues from the Mobile/Tensaw Delta