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The efficiency of phenological shifts as an adaptive response against climate change: a case study of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean

Abstract

Phenological shifts are widely reported for different species as a response to climate change. Still, the efficiency of this mechanism is questioned because of the accelerated rate of change and the different change patterns of various climate parameters that may cause mismatches. Here, using loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) as model species, we examined whether phenological shifts could be an effective adaptive strategy over the critical period that determines reproductive output in the Mediterranean region. We compared the rate of temperature and precipitation change over the recent past (1971–2015) and future periods (2016–2060) along the 45 main nesting sites of the Mediterranean population, during the incubation period. Next, utilizing predictions of an earlier nesting season, we evaluated whether the timing of incubation will impact offspring survival on the Mediterranean population. To further assess species vulnerability, we investigated any potential relationship between hatching success and climate parameters at the largest Mediterranean nesting rookery (Zakynthos, Greece). We found that phenological changes would allow species to capture a thermal window similar to one they experience nowadays during the incubation period. Still, phenological shifts might be less adequate to follow precipitation changes, which however, were found to have a limited impact upon hatching success. Global adaptation management strategies should be directed towards (a) acquisition of long-term high-resolution temperature and precipitation series at nesting sites, (b) developing early warning systems to prevent negative impacts upon reproductive outputs, and (c) directly applying cooling of the nests when first altered climate signs are detected.

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ADM and VA conceived the study. VA and EK collected the data. VA conducted the analyses. VA led writing with contributions for all authors.

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Correspondence to Vasiliki Almpanidou.

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Almpanidou, V., Katragkou, E. & Mazaris, A.D. The efficiency of phenological shifts as an adaptive response against climate change: a case study of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 23, 1143–1158 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-017-9777-5

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climatic niche
  • Impact
  • Marine turtles
  • Resilience
  • Species persistence