Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date

5-14-2009

Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences

Department

Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Curtis M. Burney

Second Advisor

Louis Fisher

Third Advisor

Edward O. Keith

Abstract

Light pollution is any excessive or obtrusive man made light source which disrupts the natural environment. Hatchling marine turtles are adversely affected by light pollution and therefore unlit nesting beaches are essential habitats for all marine turtle species. In Broward County, the most significant conservation issue facing nesting and hatchling marine turtles is the amount of light pollution present on urban sea turtle nesting beaches. The reduction of hatchling mortality from light pollution is an ongoing conservation goal of the State of Florida, Broward County, and the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Project (BCSTCP). Conservation techniques and policies intended to reduce hatchling mortality due to light pollution in Broward County have included: mass nest relocation using restraining and self release hatcheries, limited individual relocation of nests, and lighting ordnances in coastal municipalities. Until the 2006 sea turtle nesting season the BCSTCP utilized a mass relocation scheme which removed nests from unsafe and well lighted beach areas to other hatching areas which were not as severely impacted by light pollution. In 2006 the use of hatcheries was phased out and only limited relocation continued. Along with limited relocation, municipalities were strongly encouraged to reduce light pollution.

Comparisons will be made based on the 2003-2008 nesting seasons determine which policies and conservation tools were the most effective at reducing hatchling mortality due to light pollution. This study tested the following hypotheses: (1) there has been no significant decrease in light pollution in Broward County, (2) there has been no significant decrease in disoriented hatchlings on Broward County beaches, (3) recent changes to relocation techniques have not improved hatchling production with in Broward County. Results showed that the despite efforts by municipalities no overall reduction in light pollution has occurred. Initially hatchling disorientation events and the number of disoriented hatchlings increased after the policy change but have decreased during the most recent nesting season. Limited relocation yields a higher hatchling success rate then mass relocation. Although some improvements have been made light pollution control and reduction is still needed in order to reduce the accidental deaths of hatchlings due to disorientation.

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