, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 702-710

Do Embedded Roadway Lights Protect Sea Turtles?

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Abstract

Street lighting on coastal roadways is often visible at sea turtle nesting beaches, and disrupts the nocturnal orientation of hatchlings as they crawl toward the sea. Our objective was to determine whether an alternative lighting system (light-emitting diodes, embedded in the roadway pavement) prevented orientation disruption. Hatchlings at the beach oriented normally when only the embedded lights were on, or when all lighting was switched off. However, turtles showed poor orientation when street lighting was on. Measurements confirmed that street lighting was scattered to the beach, whereas embedded lighting was not. We conclude that embedded lighting keeps the beach dark and thus protects sea turtles. However, on two overcast evenings, lighting (“skyglow”) from nearby development, reflected by cloud cover to the beach, weakened hatchling orientation. Thus, both indirect (reflected) and direct sources of lighting negatively impact the turtles.