Sea turtles need natural light and clean beaches

Written by on May 27, 2016 in Marine Life, Sea Turtles

Two studies published this month reveal manmade factors that make the lives of sea turtles more difficult.

Nesting loggerhead. Photo credit: NOAA.

Nesting loggerhead. Photo credit: NOAA.

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.

Young green sea turtle. Photo credit: Mark Sullivan, NOAA.

Young green sea turtle. Photo credit: Mark Sullivan, NOAA.

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:

Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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