El niño weather and climate change threaten survival of babyleatherback sea turtles

“Temperature and humidity inside the nest are significantfactors affecting egg and hatchling survival,” said Dr. JamesSpotila, the Betz Chair Professor of Environmental Science inDrexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, and senior author of thestudy reported May 23 in the journal PLoS ONE . Spotila and colleagues, including lead author Dr. PilarSantidrian Tomillo of Drexel, therefore examined the relationshipbetween regional climate patterns with leatherback turtles’ nestingsuccess over six consecutive nesting seasons at Playa Grande. Thisbeach is the major nesting site for leatherback turtles in theeastern Pacific Ocean, containing more than 40 percent of nests.

“We have discovered a clear link between climate and survivalof this endangered sea turtle population,” said Spotila. The turtles’ hatching success and success emerging from the nestwas significantly correlated with weather patterns associated withthe El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO is anirregular pattern of periodic climate variation, shifting between”El Niño” periods with warmer sea surfacetemperature conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific, and”La Niña” conditions with cooler sea surfacetemperatures, with ENSO neutral conditions in between. The ElNiño cycle is known to influence many ecological processesthat vary from location to location.

The researchers found that warmer, dryer El Niño conditionswere associated with significantly higher mortality for eggs andhatchlings. Using projections of global climate change due toglobal warming over the next 100 years, they predicted that ElNiño conditions will become more frequent and hatchlingsuccess will decline throughout the 21st century at Playa Grandeand other nesting beaches that experience similar effects. As climate conditions change, leatherbacks nesting at Playa Grandecannot move to other beaches. Spotila noted that the beachcharacteristics and off-shore ocean currents move hatchlings tofeeding grounds on a kind of “hatchling highway” thatmakes Playa Grande an optimal nesting location for leatherbacksthat other beaches cannot replace. Womens Casual Flat Shoes

Spotila was senior author of amodeling study demonstrating this pattern, led by Dr. GeorgeShillinger of Stanford University and published in the June 2012issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B . Spotila has conducted research with nesting leatherback turtles atLas Baulas Park in Costa Rica, where Playa Grande is located, for22 years. He recently joined the faculty of Drexel’s new Departmentof Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES), formed asa result of the University’s unique affiliation with the Academy ofNatural Sciences, the oldest natural history museum in the U.S. anda world leader in biodiversity and environmental research. China Kids Wool Slippers

“The focus on field research and experiential learning in theBEES department will enable more research in environmental sciencein more places around the world,” Spotila said. “As inour long-term leatherback studies, more research by Drexel andAcademy students and scientists will contribute to a betterunderstanding of what actions are needed to protect species andenvironments in critical danger.” Leatherback turtles, Spotila says, are in critical need of humanhelp to survive. “Warming climate is killing eggs andhatchlings,” Spotila said. “Action is needed, both tomitigate this effect and, ultimately, to reverse it to avoidextinction. Childrens Winter Boots

We need to change fishing practices that kill turtlesat sea, intervene to cool the beach to save the developing eggs andfind a way to stop global warming. Otherwise, the leatherback andmany other species will be lost.”.


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