HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Curtis M. Burney

Second Advisor

Samuel J. Purkis

Third Advisor

Richard Spieler


The beaches of Broward County, Florida are a prevalent nesting site for loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles, however extensive beach erosion is threatening critical nesting habitat. Beach renourishment, the process of transporting offshore or upland sediment onshore, is a widely used method of replenishing lost sand. However, renourishment can negatively affect sea turtle nesting habitat by increasing beach compaction; the resistance to applied pressure in pounds per square inch (psi). Increased sand compaction impedes the digging of the female which affects nesting success. The influence of beach compaction on sea turtle nesting patterns has never been previously examined over the course of a nesting season on Hillsboro and Deerfield Beach. Therefore, this study was designed to examine beach compaction data for Hillsboro, a mostly natural beach, and Deerfield, a completely renourished beach, during the 2010 nesting season and analyze the compaction data against 2010 nest and false crawl (FC, non-nesting emergence) data. Compaction readings were collected during every other week March-October using a soil compaction meter at every other street address along three beach positions, the dune base, mid-beach, and average high tide line (HTL); and at three depths, 15 cm, 30 cm, and 45 cm. Values were not statistically different throughout the season for each beach, so seasonal mean compaction values were used for each beach position and depth. Hillsboro compaction values were rarely over 500 psi (35 kg/cm2), even at 45 cm depth. Deerfield compaction values exceeded the 600 psi (42kg/cm2) measurement limit of the meter in approximately 60% of the compaction values at 30 cm or 45 cm depth. Sand compaction data was analyzed for any trends between beaches as well as within each beach.

Historical data shows higher loggerhead nesting success, the number of nests/total number of crawls (including FC) x 100, on Hillsboro Beach than on Deerfield Beach. The average beach compaction values were compared to nesting success and to nest and FC density within each station area. There was a significant inverse relationship (p<0.05) between beach compaction and nesting success at each of the beach positions and depths, when both Hillsboro and Deerfield Beaches were analyzed together, except at the Mid 30 cm and Dune 45 cm depth. The strongest relationship for the combined beaches was at the HTL 15 cm depth (R2=0.3821, p<0.001). When Hillsboro was analyzed alone, beach compaction and nesting success was only significantly inversely related (R2=0.0875, p<0.02) at the HTL 15 cm depth. This demonstrates that while increased beach compaction may partially influence nesting success, there are likely other beach characteristics that contribute to nest site selection of loggerheads in Northern Broward County. The inverse relationship between Hillsboro mean beach compaction and nest density (nests per meter) was significant only at the HTL 15cm depth (p<0.002) and the inverse relationship between mean beach compaction and false crawl density (FC per meter) in Hillsboro was only significant at the Dune 15 cm (p<0.019) and the Dune 30 cm (p<0.038) depths. Although, increased beach compaction was expected to relate to higher FC density, FC density showed a significant inverse relationship to mean beach compaction at all Deerfield Beach positions and depths in and this suggests off-shore factors may be affecting nest site selection.

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