Abstract

Marine turtles exhibit strong fidelity to their nesting beaches, making the conservation of nesting beaches important for ensuring successful sea turtle populations. Conservation of these nesting beaches involves understanding how species interact with the environment and each other, and understanding how environmental change and population growth can affect the suitability of the nesting habitat. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR) is unusual in its high density of sea turtle nesting by two species: green (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles. The ACNWR in Melbourne Beach, Florida was established in 1991 due to the high density of loggerhead nesting, but in the time since it was established there has been a significant increase in green turtle nesting, from fewer than 50 nests in 1982 to over 15,000 in 2017. With such a high density of these two species in one relatively small area (21 kilometers of beach), the two species may compete for space. This is especially true for green turtles, which disturb large amounts of sand during their nesting process; in 2017, we observed 338 loggerhead clutches disturbed by nesting females during nesting surveys, nearly all of which were disturbed by green turtles. Using observed spatial and temporal nesting patterns for both green turtles and loggerheads on the ACNWR, I examined the effects these species may have on each other's nests now and in the future. Additionally, green turtles and loggerheads nest in different densities along the length of the ACNWR, with green turtles more concentrated in the southern portions of the Refuge. Finally, green turtle nesting begins and peaks approximately one month later on the ACNWR than loggerhead nesting. For each of these metrics, there is both considerable overlap and distinct separation between the two species. By using these metrics in a modeling approach, I estimated the probability of nest disturbance by a subsequently nesting female, ranging from 0 to 0.105, and how these probabilities are predicted to change over time with a growing green turtle population. Evaluating the carrying capacity of this beach is important in the context of habitat disturbance, including climate change and an increase in storm frequency, and informing adaptive management strategies for effective conservation.

Thesis Completion

2018

Semester

Spring

Thesis Chair

Mansfield, Kate

Degree

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

College

College of Sciences

Department

Biology

Degree Program

Biology

Location

Orlando (Main) Campus

Language

English

Access Status

Open Access

Release Date

5-1-2018

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