FEB 11, 2019 6:30 PM PST

Researchers Are Cooling Down Sea Turtle Nests for Conservation Purposes

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Climate change impacts all kinds of wild animals, including several varieties of sea turtles – many of which are now recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species on the organization’s Red List.

Green sea turtles take to the sand when they're ready to nest.

Image Credit: Pixabay

A warmer planet yields warmer beaches with heated sands, and sea turtles like to nest in the sand. To make matters worse, sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to these kinds of temperature shifts because they can influence gender assortment in hatchlings. Consequently, we see gender imbalances in sea turtle populations, and that’s bad for reproduction.

Given the precarious circumstances, a team of conservationists from the University of Queensland and WWF Australia are investigating noninvasive ways to reduce sea turtle nesting temperatures to prevent these imbalances from occurring. The work is part of a more significant plan to preserve dwindling sea turtle populations and help them grow and thrive.

“The science is saying that hotter sand, linked to climate change, is to blame and this is causing concern for the future of that population,” elucidated Melissa Staines, a researcher from the University of Queensland. “In the Far North, nest temperatures above 29.1 degrees Celsius generate mostly females, while sand temperatures above 34 degrees Celsius are fatal.”

Related: Sea turtles use their flippers to handle food too, study finds

Various cooling techniques are being tested on Milman Island, but two of the most prominent involve cooling the surrounding sand with seawater every night and shielding nests from the daytime sunlight with shades crafted from palm fronds. The idea is to keep temperatures below 29.1 degrees Celsius to ensure a healthy ratio of males and females.

Temperature sensors that are buried underneath the nests capture real-time temperature readouts, allowing the researchers to discern whether the efforts are working. Thus far, nest-cooling efforts have been limited to a small subset of test subjects until the effectiveness of the cooling efforts can be shown.

Assuming positive results are realized, nest cooling efforts could one day advance to the nearby Raine Island, a hotspot for green turtle nesting:

“On Raine Island, 120 kilometers south, the large numbers of green turtles coming ashore each night would knock over any shade structures,” Staines added. “There are an estimated 200,000 female green turtles in the northern Great Barrier Reef stock, and up to 90 percent of those females nest on Raine Island or surrounding cays.”

Related: All known sea turtle species have ingested microplastics

The island where the researchers are testing their techniques lacks the resources for an irrigation system or shade cloth production. Thankfully, palm fronds are a great alternative to shade cloths, and the island appears to be chock-full of them. 

It should be interesting to see whether the nest-cooling attempts work; after all, sea turtle nests are in distress all around the globe and the time to act is now.

Source: University of Queensland


About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAR 05, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAR 05, 2020
Molecule Found in Oranges Could Treat Obesity
Scientists at Western University isolated a molecule from oranges and sweet tangerines called ‘nobiletin’. T ...
MAR 22, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 22, 2020
The Evolutionary Origins of the Human Hand
An ancient fish fossil has given researchers new insight into how fish fins eventually evolved into human hands.
APR 13, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
APR 13, 2020
The Longest Animal Ever Observed
The world's oceans cover about 70 percent of its surface, and they still hold many mysteries.
APR 19, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 19, 2020
Flamingos Understand the Value of Friendship
Most of the time, wild flamingos are observed in massive flocks as opposed to hanging out on their own. It’s evide ...
MAY 08, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 08, 2020
Scientists to Spiders: How Do You Handle Sticky (Nanofiber) Situation?
The term "biomimicry" describes the models and methods harnessed by scientists to imitate natural element ...
MAY 17, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 17, 2020
Male Garter Snakes Trick Others to Improve Own Mating Success
After spending several months in hibernation during the winter, male garter snakes emerge from the underground where the ...
Loading Comments...