—- Hatchings on their way to the ocean (Image credit: Flickr user Jeroen Looye)
Wet beaches drown sea turtles
Climate changes may be wreaking havoc on the beaches where leatherback sea turtles nest. As sea levels rise and rain pounds on the sand, sea turtle nests get soggy. This could spell trouble for the charismatic reptile, which at six feet long, is the largest living turtle.
Under field and lab conditions, the scientists counted the number of live hatchlings that emerged. They then unearthed the nests to count the embryos that never hatched. Together, these numbers provided an overall survival rate for each incubation condition. A clear trend emerged: the wetter the sand, the lower the survival rate. On the wettest parts of the beach, no hatchlings survived at all. These results, which will be published in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, are not entirely surprising to scientists. According to Richard Reina, a marine biologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, the connection between climate change and lower hatchling survival rate was a “fairly easy inference to draw,” given previous knowledge of climate change’s effects on beach moisture.