Optimism for mitigation of climate warming impacts for sea turtles through nest shading and relocation

Increasing incubation temperatures may threaten the viability of sea turtle populations. We explored opportunities for decreasing incubation temperatures at a Caribbean rookery with extreme female-biased hatchling production. To investigate the effect of artificial shading, temperatures were measured under simple materials (white sheet, white sand, palm leaves). To test natural drivers of incubation temperature, temperatures were measured at average nest depths with shading on two beaches. Results from a pilot experiment suggest the most effective material was palm leaves. Shading decreased temperatures by a mean of 0.60 °C (SE = 0.10 °C, N = 20). Variation between beaches averaged 1.88 °C (SE = 0.13 °C, N = 20). We used long-term rookery data combined with experimental data to estimate the effect on sex ratio: relocation and shading could shift ratios from current ranges (97–100% female) to 60–90% female. A conservation mitigation matrix summarises our evidence that artificial shading and nest relocation are effective, low-cost, low-technology conservation strategies to mitigate impacts of climate warming for sea turtles.

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