From: University of Central Florida
Published October 5, 2017 08:42 AM

Hurricane Exposes and Washes Away Thousands of Sea Turtle Nests

Hurricane Irma took a devastating toll on incubating sea turtle nests in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most important loggerhead and green turtle nesting sites in the world, according to new estimates from the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group.

Researchers found significant dune erosion that swept away some nests and exposed the eggs of others. It was a record year for green turtle nesting along the refuge’s beaches in southern Brevard County, but storm surge due to hurricane Irma destroyed many unhatched loggerhead and green turtle nests. UCF researchers estimate that of nests laid through the end of September, more than half of the season’s green turtle nests and a quarter of loggerhead nests were lost.

Both species are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and Florida hosts the majority of both species’ U.S. nests. The section of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge monitored by UCF hosts about a third of the Florida’s green turtle nests.

“Last year with Hurricane Matthew, we lucked out because it was a low green turtle year,” said Kate Mansfield, assistant professor and director of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group, noting that green turtles typically have alternating high and low nesting years. “This year was an extraordinarily exciting year for green turtle nesting, breaking all previous records within the refuge and continuing the conservation success story for the species. Unfortunately, we had another big hurricane this year, highlighting the need for continued conservation efforts in the area.”

Read more at University of Central Florida

Image: Sea turtle eggs exposed after hurricane-driven storm surge washed away sand and dunes where they were incubating. Photo taken Sept. 13, 2017, at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, Brevard County, Florida. (Credit: G. Stahelin, Univeristy of Central Florida)

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