Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire starts a 3-year pilot project

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire starts a 3-year pilot project

Kralendijk – In 2021, STCB will start a three-year pilot study measuring beach temperatures and profiling the distribution and density of vegetation at important nesting sites on Bonaire. With this study, STCB will collect standardized data to gain a broader insight into the effects of climate change on nesting sites.

Beach temperatures can affect sea turtle survival, because the incubation temperature (i.e. the temperature in a nest during the 50-60 day incubation period) plays a vital role in determining the sex of sea turtle hatchlings. Temperature-dependent sex determination in sea turtles can be summarized as ‘hot chicks, cool dudes’, meaning that higher nest temperatures lead to more female hatchlings. Increasing temperatures could therefore potentially cause a lack of males in sea turtle populations, affecting the survival of this species.

Another climate change related factor to keep in mind is the available nesting space. Beaches are dynamic by nature, therefore the physical layout of a beach changes from one year to the next. When in balance, this dynamic does not affect available nesting space, it only changes the distribution of nests in a certain area. However, erosion, accretion and distribution of vegetation may affect the space available for nesting as well as the productivity of nests. Therefore, STCB will also be recording the profile of the beaches where temperature loggers are deployed.

The collection of data for this pilot project started on May 19th 2021 on the index beach of Klein Bonaire with the deployment of 40 data loggers. Playa Chikitu and beaches in the south of Bonaire will follow, for a total of 98 temperature loggers to be deployed on Bonaire. This pilot study was initiated by the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC), an international treaty to which the Netherlands is a signatory party and to which STCB is an active member. Funding for this study has been provided by WWF-NL.

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