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Sustainable use as a mechanism for the conservation and recovery of exploited wildlife populations remains intensely debated, including for freshwater turtles, a diverse and imperilled group of aquatic reptiles that are an important food source for many residents of tropical regions. Here we evaluated the geographical extent of recovery options for a heavily exploited tropical freshwater turtle fauna across 8.86 M km2 of South American river catchments under Business-as-Usual (BAU), Protection (Pr) and Community-Based-Management (CBM) scenarios. For the widespread indicator species, Podocnemis unifilis, demographic analysisshowed that populations subject moderate levels of female harvest (≤10%) can recover over broad areas if concurrent headstarting of hatchlings is practiced more widely. With regional strengthening of the protected area network unlikely, CBM developed with harvest frameworks derived from demographic rates appropriate to tropical species could catalyse a rapid continental scale recovery of Amazonian freshwater turtles within a few decades.
This is the first version of a manuscript submitted to Conservation Letters.
Presenting methodological details for demographic projections and spatial analysis.