Proxy indicators of sand temperature help project impacts of global warming on sea turtles in northern Australia

Fuentes, M.M.P.B., Maynard, J.A., Guinea, M., Bell, I.P., Werdell, P.J., and Hamann, M. (2009) Proxy indicators of sand temperature help project impacts of global warming on sea turtles in northern Australia. Endangered Species Research, 9 (1). pp. 33-40.

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Global warming poses serious threats to sea turtle populations since sex determination and hatching success are dependent on nest temperature. Nest sex ratios may be skewed towards a predominantly female output, and eggs may be consistently exposed to temperatures that exceed thermal mortality thresholds. Consequently, understanding the rates at which sand temperatures are likely to change represents an immediate priority. Here, we use regression analyses to correlate air temperature (AT) and high-resolution sea surface temperature (SST) to sand temperature at 5 rookeries in northern Australia. We show that previous studies using only AT could potentially be improved by including SST as a covariate. At our study sites, combined SST and AT models explained between 79 and 94% of the variance in sand temperature in recent years. Our results suggest that hatchling production will skew towards all females at 3 of our sites by 2070 (Moulter Cay, Milman Island and Bramble Cay) and by as early as 2030 at Ashmore Island and Bare Sand Island. The projections presented here can inform the timely and targeted implementation of local-scale management strategies to reduce the impacts of global warming on sea turtle populations. Identifying and testing new strategies deserves immediate attention, as does further research into the adaptive capacity of sea turtles.

Item ID: 8041
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1613-4796
Keywords: global warming; temperature; sea turtles; sex ratio; hatching success; Torres Strait; Australia
Funders: MTSRF
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2010 05:57
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069902 Global Change Biology @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management @ 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%
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