Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

El Niño weather and climate change threaten survival of baby leatherback sea turtles

Date:
May 24, 2012
Source:
Drexel University
Summary:
When critically endangered leatherback turtle hatchlings dig out of their nests, they enter a world filled with threats to survival. Now, Drexel University researchers have found that the climate conditions at the nesting beach affect the early survival of turtle eggs and hatchlings. They predict, based on projections from multiple models, that egg and hatchling survival will drop by half in the next 100 years as a result of global climate change.

When leatherback turtle hatchlings dig out of their nests buried in the sandy Playa Grande beach in northwest Costa Rica, they enter a world filled with dangers. This critically endangered species faces threats that include egg poaching and human fishing practices.
Credit: © Martin Wilkinson / Fotolia

When leatherback turtle hatchlings dig out of their nests buried in the sandy Playa Grande beach in northwest Costa Rica, they enter a world filled with dangers. This critically endangered species faces threats that include egg poaching and human fishing practices. Now, Drexel University researchers have found that the climate conditions at the nesting beach affect the early survival of turtle eggs and hatchlings. They predict, based on projections from multiple models, that egg and hatchling survival will drop by half in the next 100 years as a result of global climate change.

Related Articles


"Temperature and humidity inside the nest are significant factors affecting egg and hatchling survival," said Dr. James Spotila, the Betz Chair Professor of Environmental Science in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences, and senior author of the study reported May 23 in the journal PLoS ONE. Spotila and colleagues, including lead author Dr. Pilar Santidrian Tomillo of Drexel, therefore examined the relationship between regional climate patterns with leatherback turtles' nesting success over six consecutive nesting seasons at Playa Grande. This beach is the major nesting site for leatherback turtles in the eastern Pacific Ocean, containing more than 40 percent of nests.

"We have discovered a clear link between climate and survival of this endangered sea turtle population," said Spotila.

The turtles' hatching success and success emerging from the nest was significantly correlated with weather patterns associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO is an irregular pattern of periodic climate variation, shifting between "El Niño" periods with warmer sea surface temperature conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific, and "La Niña" conditions with cooler sea surface temperatures, with ENSO neutral conditions in between. The El Niño cycle is known to influence many ecological processes that vary from location to location.

The researchers found that warmer, dryer El Niño conditions were associated with significantly higher mortality for eggs and hatchlings. Using projections of global climate change due to global warming over the next 100 years, they predicted that El Niño conditions will become more frequent and hatchling success will decline throughout the 21st century at Playa Grande and other nesting beaches that experience similar effects.

As climate conditions change, leatherbacks nesting at Playa Grande cannot move to other beaches. Spotila noted that the beach characteristics and off-shore ocean currents move hatchlings to feeding grounds on a kind of "hatchling highway" that makes Playa Grande an optimal nesting location for leatherbacks that other beaches cannot replace. Spotila was senior author of a modeling study demonstrating this pattern, led by Dr. George Shillinger of Stanford University and published in the June 2012 issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Spotila has conducted research with nesting leatherback turtles at Las Baulas Park in Costa Rica, where Playa Grande is located, for 22 years. He recently joined the faculty of Drexel's new Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES), formed as a result of the University's unique affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences, the oldest natural history museum in the U.S. and a world leader in biodiversity and environmental research.

"The focus on field research and experiential learning in the BEES department will enable more research in environmental science in more places around the world," Spotila said. "As in our long-term leatherback studies, more research by Drexel and Academy students and scientists will contribute to a better understanding of what actions are needed to protect species and environments in critical danger."

Leatherback turtles, Spotila says, are in critical need of human help to survive. "Warming climate is killing eggs and hatchlings," Spotila said. "Action is needed, both to mitigate this effect and, ultimately, to reverse it to avoid extinction. We need to change fishing practices that kill turtles at sea, intervene to cool the beach to save the developing eggs and find a way to stop global warming. Otherwise, the leatherback and many other species will be lost."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Drexel University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. G. L. Shillinger, E. Di Lorenzo, H. Luo, S. J. Bograd, E. L. Hazen, H. Bailey, J. R. Spotila. On the dispersal of leatherback turtle hatchlings from Mesoamerican nesting beaches. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2012; 279 (1737): 2391 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2348
  2. Pilar Santidrián Tomillo, Vincent S. Saba, Gabriela S. Blanco, Charles A. Stock, Frank V. Paladino, James R. Spotila. Climate Driven Egg and Hatchling Mortality Threatens Survival of Eastern Pacific Leatherback Turtles. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (5): e37602 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037602

Cite This Page:

Drexel University. "El Niño weather and climate change threaten survival of baby leatherback sea turtles." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524092928.htm>.
Drexel University. (2012, May 24). El Niño weather and climate change threaten survival of baby leatherback sea turtles. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524092928.htm
Drexel University. "El Niño weather and climate change threaten survival of baby leatherback sea turtles." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524092928.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins