Two studies published this month reveal manmade factors that make the lives of sea turtles more difficult.
One revealed that sea turtles prefer cleaner beaches. Researchers from University of Florida (UF) studied nesting beaches along the Florida Panhandle, which has one of the highest nesting densities of loggerheads in the northern Gulf of Mexico. They found that when beaches were cleared of debris, the number of sea turtle nests increased by as many as 200. However, when debris was left on the beach, the number of nests decreased by nearly 50%. In this study, debris included natural things, like fallen trees, and manmade things, like concrete, pipes, and metal fencing.
“Our results showed that the presence of large debris on a sandy beach could alter the distribution of sea turtle nests by influencing turtle nest site selection,” Ikuko Fujisaki, assistant research professor of wildlife ecology and conservation with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said in a news release.
Another study led by the University of Western Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and the Department of Parks and Wildlife measured the impact of artificial light on sea turtles.
Researchers tracked the movements of green sea turtle hatchlings around Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. They found that 90% of hatchlings swam towards the artificial light, thinking it was the moon.
“It is widely known that artificial lighting near turtle nesting beaches attracts turtle hatchlings as they emerge from nests and can cause them to have trouble finding the sea,” UWA Professor of Coastal Oceanography, Charitha Pattiaratchi, explained in a news release. “But understanding what happens once they reach the sea and how lights on water from sources such as boats, ports and wharves affect them has been unknown up until now because we lacked a simple means to track them.”
The results of this study may have implications for the management of coastal development.
To learn more:
- Read the UF news release: More sea turtles survive with less beach debris
- Read the debris study abstract: The effects of large beach debris on nesting sea turtles
- Read the UWA news release: Scientists measure impact of artificial light on sea turtles
- Read the light study abstract: Artificial light on water attracts turtle hatchlings during their near shore transit
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