Recent status and fate of the north-eastern Mediterranean monk seal populations.

2019-12-09
The endangered Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is represented by approximately 350-450 individuals in Eastern Mediterranean waters in the form of small, fragmented and isolated groups. The North-eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey being the host to one of the last continuously breeding populations, has vital importance for the survival of the species. Small populations inhabiting this region have been studied extensively for the last 25 years. The recent surveys showed that fragmented populations are still exposed to severe threats as a consequence of anthropogenic impacts. Therefore, in this study we focused on three previously documented populations in the southern coast of Turkey to update their status by utilizing photo-identification method, to estimate the size of the populations with Champan modification, to elucidate the dispersal among populations and to test the impact of dispersal on the survival of the populations through population viability analysis (PVA). Within this context, 20 caves were monitored with infrared camera-traps between the years 2015 and 2018. 37 individuals were identified and the overall population size estimate was 37 ± 5 (95% CI) seals. Among them were three adult females mobile between Western and Central groups which makes the mobility range of seals almost six times larger than previously documented in the same region. When compared to former studies, mortality rates increased whilst fecundity rates decreased. The results of the PVA analysis showed that populations have higher chance of survival in the case of dispersal. However, both isolated and dispersed populations have failed to survive within the next 100 years. Moreover, PVA models were easily affected by carrying capacity which highlights the importance of breeding caves. Therefore, continuity of monitoring studies focusing on threats and establishing Marine Protected Areas considering the suitable seal habitats and mobility of seals has vital importance for the future of the species
Citation Formats
M. KURT, M. Ok, and A. C. Gücü, “Recent status and fate of the north-eastern Mediterranean monk seal populations.,” 2019, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/88706.