On sea turtle nesting beaches, artificial lighting associated with human development interferes with hatchling orientation from nest to sea. Although hatchling disorientation has been documented for many beaches, data that managers can use in understanding, predicting, and managing the issue are of limited detail. The present study provides baseline hatchling orientation data that can be compared to those from beaches with artificial lighting to prioritize light-management efforts there. In 2014, the precision of hatchling orientation was quantified for 87 nests on a naturally lighted beach that had little to no artificial lighting. Precision of hatchling orientation was regressed against seven environmental variables: beach slope, distance from nest to dune, dune height, apparent dune silhouette height relative to nest site, moon illumination percentage, cloud cover percentage, and relative humidity. Results favored a regression model that included distance from nest to dune, with shorter distances from the dune predicting a narrower angular range (i.e., greater precision) of hatchling orientation. The study confirmed findings of an earlier laboratory experiment that highlighted the importance to accurate hatchling orientation of a dark silhouette (dune) on the side of the nest site opposite the ocean side. Reducing artificial light and promoting the planting of pioneer plants that assist dune formation can increase hatchling survival.
|Title||Environmental factors predicting the orientation of sea turtle hatchlings on a naturally lighted beach: A baseline for light-management goals|
|Authors||S. Hirama, B. Witherington, K. Kneifl, A. Sylvai, M. Wideroff, Raymond Carthy|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Coop Res Unit Atlanta|