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

M FUENTES, J MAYNARD, Michael Guinea, Martin Bell, P WERDELL, M HAMANN

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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. � Inter-Research 2009.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33-40
    Number of pages8
    JournalEndangered Species Research
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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