Central Florida beaches are reporting record numbers of loggerhead sea turtle nests, reversing a recent decline. But hotter summers pose a long-term danger to the threatened species.
Canaveral National Seashore and neighboring beaches in central Florida are reporting record numbers of loggerhead sea turtle nests, a promising change from a decade-long drop.
But now a new threat is looming: rising temperatures. Summers are gradually getting warmer at Canaveral. And with climate change scenarios projecting the trend to continue, there’s increasing concern it might get so hot that the eggs literally fry.
This could mean trouble especially for the male of the species, which is already at a disadvantage in Florida. Sea turtle biologists have long used the adage “hot mamas, cool dads” as a reminder that loggerhead sea turtles become male or female based on the temperature when their eggs incubate — higher temperatures make them females.
With the prospect of even hotter weather as a backdrop, the interplay between temperatures and sea turtle eggs is the basis for a study by University of Central Florida graduate student Monette Auman, who is tracking nest temperatures and hatching success of some loggerhead sea turtle nests at Canaveral National Seashore.
“It’s an interesting subject to discuss because there are questions like, what does an overabundance of females mean to the population?” Auman said. “And what happens if rising temperatures put sea turtles in a more precarious situation?”
From 2001 to 2011, average temperatures at Canaveral were 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they were from 1961 to 1990, according to a new study released by two environmental groups, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the National Resources Defense Council.
Climate change scenarios suggest that average temperatures could continue to increase an additional 1.8 to 4 degrees by 2060, the report said.