Past, current and future thermal profiles of green turtle nesting grounds: implications from climate change

Fuentes, M.M.P.B., Hamann, M., and Limpus, C.J. (2010) Past, current and future thermal profiles of green turtle nesting grounds: implications from climate change. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 383 (1). pp. 56-64.

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Abstract

Sex determination and hatching success in sea turtles is temperature dependent and as a result global warming poses a threat to sea turtles. Warmer sand temperatures may skew sea turtle population′s sex ratios towards predominantly females and decrease hatching success. Therefore, understanding the rates at which sand temperatures are likely to increase as climate change progresses is warranted. We recorded sand temperature and used historical sea surface and air temperature to model past and to predict future sand temperature under various scenarios of global warming at key sea turtle nesting grounds (n=7) used by the northern Great Barrier Reef (nGBR) green turtle, Chelonia mydas, population. Reconstructed temperatures from 1990 to the present suggest that sand temperatures at the nesting sites studied have not changed significantly during the last 18 years. Current thermal profile at the nesting grounds suggests a bias towards female hatchling production into this population. Inter-beach thermal variance was observed at some nesting grounds with open areas in the sand dune at northern facing beaches having the warmest incubating environments. Our model projections suggest that a near complete feminization of hatchling output into this population will occur by 2070 under an extreme scenario of climate change (A1T emission scenario). Importantly, we found that some nesting grounds will still produce male hatchlings, under the most extreme scenario of climate change, this finding differs from predictions for other locations. Information from this study provides a better understanding of possible future changes in hatching success and sex ratios at each site and identifies important male producing regions. This allowed us to suggest strategies that can be used at a local scale to offset some of the impacts of warmer incubating temperatures to sea turtles.

Item ID: 8040
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: green turtles; hatching success; reptiles; sea turtles; temperature-dependent sex determination
ISSN: 0022-0981
Funders: MTSRF
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2010 22:58
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069902 Global Change Biology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960303 Climate Change Models @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 16
Downloads: Total: 4
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