Global sea-level rise of up to 0.6 m is predicted in the next 100 years. In areas where coastal structures prevent landward mi- gration of beaches, a major impact of sea-level rise will be a loss of beach habitat, with repercussions for beach-dependent organ- isms such as sea turtles. Setback regulations, which prohibit construction within a set distance from the sea, have the potential to mitigate loss of beach area by providing a buffer zone which allows for the natural movement of beaches in response to perturbation. The potential impact of a rise in sea level on 11 important sea turtle nesting beaches in Barbados under a range of setback regu- lations was determined. Three sea-level rise scenarios were modelled under five different setback regulations (10, 30, 50, 70 and 90 m). Beach area was lost from all beaches under all sea-level rise scenarios with a 10 and 30 m setback, from some beaches with a 50 m setback and from one beach with a 70 m setback. No beach area was lost with a 90 m setback distance. Sea turtles nest within a range of beach elevations and there was an overall loss of beach habitat within the preferred nesting elevation range with both a 10 and 30 m setback under all sea-level rise scenarios. Considerable variation in the extent of beach and nesting area loss was observed. The implementation and enforcement of adequate setback regulations have the potential to maintain the ecological and economic function of beaches in the face of extensive coastal development and sea-level rise.
Somatic growth dynamics are an integrated response to environmental conditions. Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are long-lived, major consumers in coral reef habitats that move over broad geographic areas (hundreds to thousands of kilometers). We evaluated spatio-temporal effects on hawksbill growth dynamics over a 33-yr period and 24 study sites throughout the West Atlantic and explored relationships between growth dynamics and climate indices. We compiled the largest ever data set on somatic growth rates for hawksbills – 3541 growth increments from 1980 to 2013. Using generalized additive mixed model analyses, we evaluated 10 covariates, including spatial and temporal variation, that could affect growth rates. Growth rates throughout the region responded similarly over space and time. The lack of a spatial effect or spatio-temporal interaction and the very strong temporal effect reveal that growth rates in West Atlantic hawksbills are likely driven by region-wide forces. Between 1997 and 2013, mean growth rates declined significantly and steadily by 18%. Regional climate indices have significant relationships with annual growth rates with 0- or 1-yr lags: positive with the Multivariate El Niño Southern Oscillation Index (correlation = 0.99) and negative with Caribbean sea surface temperature (correlation = −0.85). Declines in growth rates between 1997 and 2013 throughout the West Atlantic most likely resulted from warming waters through indirect negative effects on foraging resources of hawksbills. These climatic influences are complex. With increasing temperatures, trajectories of decline of coral cover and availability in reef habitats of major prey species of hawksbills are not parallel. Knowledge of how choice of foraging habitats, prey selection, and prey abundance are affected by warming water temperatures is needed to understand how climate change will affect productivity of consumers that live in association with coral reefs.
House geckos in the genus Hemidactylus are highly successful colonizers of regions beyond their native range, with colonization often resulting in displacement of native gecko species through competitive interactions for daytime refuge (crevices) and prey resources. We report on data collected from nighttime surveys undertaken in April-May 2014 on Barbados, West Indies, that focused on the distribution and abundance of the endemic Barbados leaf-toed gecko (Phyllodactylus pulcher) and the introduced tropical house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) along unlit coastal walls and among boulders in the grounds of a hotel resort. In contrast to patterns of displacement of native species by H. mabouia seen elsewhere, P. pulcher was more abundant than H. mabouia on coastal walls, whereas the latter was found in greater numbers using boulders at this site. Walls and boulders differed with regard to availability of diurnal refugia suitable for geckos, with the walls having high frequency of small crevices with openings <20 mm, and boulders offering very little cover other than the underside of the boulder itself. To investigate whether this niche separation was a result of differences in diurnal refuge use between the species, we conducted experimental trials in which geckos were allowed to select between refugia with different characteristics. Both species selected for narrower and warmer refugia, and refugia that had been previously occupied by the other species. These shared preferences for refugia type suggest that other factors underlie the niche separation observed in the field. In supporting high densities of P. pulcher, coastal walls could offer important secondary habitat by augmenting the natural cliff side habitat of this endemic gecko, a finding that could be exploited for the conservation of this candidate species for Critically Endangered classification.
Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) nesting in Barbados were outfitted with time-depth recorders (TDRs) with temperature sensors to investigate the form and patterns of diving behaviour during the inter-nesting interval (INI; average 14.7 days). All females, regardless of size, surfaced infrequently during dives of average 56 min duration, and the majority of dives (90%) were spent in the bottom phase at 15–25 m depths, which corresponded to the depth of benthic habitat at each location. Diving activity was highest while commuting to and from the nesting beach (about 1–2 days each way), with a level of quiescence during the intermediate period (i.e. the majority of the INI). Despite little thermal variation in seawater at this latitude (13.1°N), the length of the INI was influenced by ambient sea water temperature. Diving behaviour was consistent with females conserving energy reserves built up at foraging grounds prior to arrival at the nesting beach and minimising time spent in the water column away from safe refuge at night. The frequency of surfacing and the depths at which females spend most of their time varies between sites even within one species and may be crucial in managing the risks to animals temporarily residing offshore from important nesting beaches.