Management strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on sea turtle’s terrestrial reproductive phase

Abstract

Climate change poses a serious threat to sea turtles (Cheloniidae) as their terrestrial reproductive phase is only successful within a limited range of environmental and physical conditions. These conditions are likely to become less optimal as climate change progresses. To date, management and conservation of sea turtles has focused almost entirely on non-climatic stressors, due at least in part to practitioners not knowing what strategies to take and the feasibility and risks of potential strategies. To aid the management of sea turtles in a changing environment, we identified management strategies via a focus workshop and surveys to mitigate the impacts of climate change to the terrestrial reproductive phase of sea turtles. The effectiveness, ecological risks and potential social and logistical constraints associated with implementing each of the identified management strategies is discussed. Twenty management strategies were identified; strategies varied from habitat protection to more active and direct manipulation of nests and the nesting environment. Based on our results, we suggest a three-pronged approach to sea turtle conservation in light of climate change, where managers and researchers should: 1) enhance sea turtle resilience to climate change by mitigating other threats; 2) prioritise implementing the ‘no regret’ and ‘reversible’ management strategies identified here; and 3) fill the knowledge gaps identified to aid the trial and implementation of the potential strategies identified here. By combining these three approaches our collective toolkit of sea turtle management strategies will expand, giving us an array of viable approaches to implement as climate change impacts become more extreme.

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Acknowledgments

This work was made possible by grants to the first and second author, respectively, from the Australian Research Council and the MacArthur Foundation and by funding and logistical support provided by the World Wildlife Fund. The authors are indebted to participants in the workshop, all of whom provided either insight during the workshop and/or critical feedback on this manuscript. The authors also thank all survey respondents, M. Hamann and C. Limpus for discussions that contributed to the content presented here and D. Tracey for collaborating with our group on the results tables. Surveys complied with the current laws of Australia and all permits necessary for the project were obtained (JCU Human Ethics H3377). This is a contribution by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

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Correspondence to M. M. P. B. Fuentes.

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Fuentes, M.M.P.B., Fish, M.R. & Maynard, J.A. Management strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on sea turtle’s terrestrial reproductive phase. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 17, 51–63 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-011-9308-8

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Keywords

  • Adaptive management
  • Climate change
  • Conservation
  • Sea turtles
  • Management strategies