Capstone Title

The Effects of Physical Barriers on Nesting Behavior and Nesting Success in Loggerhead Turtle, Caretta caretta, Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas, and Leatherback Turtle, Dermochelys coriacea in South Florida, USA

Defense Date

3-2012

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Curtis Burney

Second Advisor

Kenneth Banks

Third Advisor

Lou Fisher

Abstract

In South Florida three species of sea turtles commonly nest along coastal beaches including the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Nesting site selection depends on a variety of physical factors such asmicrohabitat cues and beach composition. Frequently, during nesting attempts, sea turtles encounter numerous barriers that can alter their nesting behavior or nesting success. These barriers differ in size, shape and composition and also in their effects on nesting females. Examples of barriers include coastal armoring, seawalls, sand fences, vegetation, beach furniture, beach pilings and coastal development. Barriers placed along South Florida’s coast alter the physical environment, fragment or eliminate habitat, and can modify nesting behavior, affecting the overall nesting success. In Broward County, direct physical contact between a sea turtle and amanmade obstruction is documented as an obstructed nesting attempt (ONA). ONA data from the 2008-2011 nesting seasons were analyzed to identify any significant trends. The most commonly encountered barriertypewas beach furniture. Loggerheads were the species most commonly affected and the highest number of ONAs occurredin Hillsboro beach. Although protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the loggerhead, green and leatherback species are still at risk as a result of natural and anthropogenic impacts. Review of barrier placements along sea turtle nesting beaches and their effects on a female’s nesting behavior and nesting success will provide a better understanding of the consequences of each obstruction resulting in improved conservation efforts for the management of sea turtle nesting habitats.

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