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Compression of home ranges in ghost crabs on sandy beaches impacted by vehicle traffic
Schlacher, T.A.; Lucrezi, S. (2010). Compression of home ranges in ghost crabs on sandy beaches impacted by vehicle traffic. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 157(11): 2467-2474.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Schlacher, T.A.
  • Lucrezi, S.

    Animal movement is a pivotal element of many ecological processes, and on ocean-exposed sandy shores, ghost crabs (genus Ocypode) undertake extensive nocturnal forays on the beach surface. Because crab populations are also threatened by vehicle traffic, indicators that can detect sublethal effects before population declines are manifest are important. To this end, we tested on a barrier island in Eastern Australia whether movement patterns of crabs respond predictably to disturbance by vehicles; this was done by tracking (using the spool-and-line technique) crabs at night in beach sections open and closed to traffic. Beach traffic not only halved population densities of crabs on the unvegetated beach seawards of the dunes, but it also fundamentally changed crab behaviour and movement: individuals from beach areas rutted by tyre tracks travelled shorter distances in a more erratic zigzag pattern, and they had significantly compressed home ranges. Such behavioural changes linked to human pressures could be well suited as an early warning signal for wider negative ecological impacts (as demonstrated by reduced abundances). They also emphasize the need to incorporate sublethal effects into the assessment and management of ecological changes resulting from beach recreation.

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