Temporal shift of sea turtle nest sites in an eroding barrier island beach

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Abstract

Shoreline changes affect functionality of a sandy beach as a wildlife habitat and coastal erosion is among the primary causes of the changes. We examined temporal shifts in locations where loggerheads placed nests in relation to coastal erosion along a barrier island beach in the northern Gulf of Mexico. We first confirmed consistency in long-term (1855–2001), short-term (1976–2001), and more recent (2002–2012) shoreline change rates in two adjacent beach sections, one historically eroding (west beach) and the other accreting (east beach). The mean annual shoreline change rate in the two sections was significantly different in all time periods. The recent (1998–2012) mean change rate was −10.9 ± 9.9 m/year in the west beach and −2.8 ± 4.9 m/year in the east beach, which resulted in the loss of about 70% and 30% of area in the west and east beaches, respectively. Loggerheads nested significantly closer to the vegetation line in 2012 than in 2002 in the west beach but the difference between the two time periods was not significant in the east beach. However, the distance from nests to the vegetation line from 2002 to 2014 was significantly reduced annually in both beaches; on average, loggerheads nested closer to the vegetation line by 9 m/year in the west beach and 5.8 m/year in the east beach. The observed shoreline change rate and corresponding shift of nest placement sites, combined with the forecasted future beach loss, highlighted the importance of addressing the issue of beach erosion to conserve sandy beach habitats.

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Fujisaki, I., Lamont, M., & Carthy, R. (2018). Temporal shift of sea turtle nest sites in an eroding barrier island beach. Ocean and Coastal Management, 155, 24–29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2017.12.032

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