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Climate Change & Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches Fact Sheet

Climate change and the resulting sea level rise are threatening key sea turtle nesting beaches around the world. As all seven species of sea turtles are already under threat, loss of key nesting beaches could be detrimental to turtle populations if rapid action is not taken. Read our fact sheet to get the important details from our full report, ‘Deadly Waters: The Threat of Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels to Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches.’

Climate Change: A Rising Tide

The current pace of climate change will be faster than anything experienced in the last 10,000 years, and therefore is an unprecedented threat to sea turtles whose populations are already vulnerable from human activities. Specifically, climate change will cause a loss of nesting beaches and coastal habitat through rising sea levels, increased female gender bias in hatchlings, reduced hatching success from high temperatures and increased storm events, decreased or shifting food supply, and changing ocean currents impacting migration.

Sea Turtle Nesting Behavior

Sea turtles return to their birthplace to lay eggs, breed and nest. When mature, the female turtles return to their natal beaches to nest. This is problematic if these beaches disappear as a result of sea level rises.

Key Facts

  1. Hawaiian sea turtles are at risk.
    • 90 percent of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) nest in Hawaii on the French Frigate Shoals, part of an atoll located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This area could disappear due to sea level rise.
  2. Loggerhead sea turtles could lose 43 percent of their nesting habitat in Florida, where more than 10,000 females nest each year. This percentage is based on a model that assumes half meter sea level rise within the next 20 to 50 years.
  3. Texas sea turtles are at risk.
    • Padre Island National Seashore in Texas is the second most important nesting site for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in the world, and is vulnerable to storm surges and rising sea levels.
  4. Further research needs to be conducted to survey beach profiles and overlay that data with models of projected sea level rises and storm surges to identify the level of risk from climate change for olive ridley, hawksbill and flatback sea turtles.

Recommendations

  • Ensure Major Nesting Beaches are Climate Resilient
  • Establish Second Nesting Colonies at Key Species Nesting Sites
  • Reduce Other Anthropogenic Threats to Sea Turtles at Priority Nesting Beaches
  • Document Potential Loss of Major Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches Worldwide
  • Reduce Climate Change Emissions to Bring Carbon Dioxide Levels Below 350 Parts Per Million

Read the full report here: https://seaturtles.org/deadlywaters/