Meeting Abstract

P1.66  Wednesday, Jan. 4  Investigating Changes in Diamondback Terrapin Nesting Behavior in Jamaica Bay, New York BURKE, RL; DOLCEMASCOLO, P*; KANONIK, A; Hofstra University; Montclair State University; Town of Hempstead Dept of Conservation and Waterways

Little is known about the process by which turtles abandon old nesting areas and colonize new nesting areas, but this process must occur with some frequency as habitats undergo succession and erosion. This must be especially rapid in areas that are highly impacted by urban development. Jamaica Bay (JB) is a large estuary in New York City whose shore lines, islands, and marshes were heavily modified in the 20th century. Many nesting and feeding sites were destroyed and some new nesting sites were created. This process is ongoing, as salt marshes in the area are currently eroding at a rapid rate. A mark-recapture study of diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) has been conducted in JB since 1998 to determine whether this population is sustained by recruitment. Nearly all nesting now occurs on an island known as Ruler’s Bar Hassock that was created in the 1920s. The number of nesting females in the population has remained fairly constant at just under 1000 adults but the number of nests on Ruler’s Bar has been dropping steadily and is now 37% lower than in 1999. The decrease may be the result of females moving to other sites to oviposit, perhaps sites closer to remaining marshes. A genetic analysis of the terrapins in Gateway National Recreation area is currently being conducted to better understand the history of terrapin colonization and abandonment of nesting sites in Jamaica Bay and elsewhere in the region.