The Effects of Artificial Beach Nourishment on Marine Turtles: Differences between Loggerhead and Green Turtles

Authors

  • Kelly A. Brock,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32816, U.S.A.
      Address correspondence to K. A. Brock, email kkbrock@wavecable.com
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  • Joshua S. Reece,

    1. Department of Biology, Washington University, Campus Box 1137, St. Louis, MO 63130, U.S.A.
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  • Llewellyn M. Ehrhart

    1. Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32816, U.S.A.
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Address correspondence to K. A. Brock, email kkbrock@wavecable.com

Abstract

Marine turtle reproductive success is correlated with the stability and quality of the nesting environment. Female marine turtles show fidelity to nesting beaches, making artificial beach nourishment practices directly relevant to their recovery. We evaluated the impacts of artificial beach nourishment on Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) between artificially nourished and nonnourished beaches. We observed reduced nesting success (ratio of nesting emergences to emergences not resulting in nest deposition) for both species. This negative effect lasted for one season in Loggerheads and for at least one season in Green turtles. Physical attributes of the fill sand did not impede nesting attempts. We argue that the decrease in nesting success resulted from an altered beach profile not favorable for nest deposition, which subsequently improved in later seasons as the beach equilibrated to a more natural slope. We observed a 52.2% decrease in reproductive output (hatchlings km−1 yr−1) for Loggerheads one year postnourishment, with a 44.1% increase observed the two seasons postnourishment. In Green turtles, a 0.8% reduction was observed the first season postnourishment, despite a 13% increase in the nonnourished area. The reduction in reproductive output in both cases was primarily a consequence of decreased nesting success, lowering nest numbers. These results reveal stronger negative effects of beach nourishment on Loggerheads compared to Green turtles and the importance of minimizing excessive nonnesting emergences associated with artificial beach nourishment. Nourished areas also experienced more than 600% increase in the number of Loggerhead hatchlings disoriented by artificial lighting over two years postnourishment.

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