Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-2012

Publication Source

Nature Climate Change

Volume

2

Issue

11

Inclusive pages

814-820

DOI

10.1038/nclimate1582

Peer Reviewed

yes

Abstract

Assessing the potential impacts of climate change on individual species and populations is essential for the stewardship of ecosystems and biodiversity. Critically endangered leatherback turtles in the eastern Pacific Ocean are excellent candidates for such an assessment because their sensitivity to contemporary climate variability has been substantially studied. If incidental fisheries mortality is eliminated, this population still faces the challenge of recovery in a rapidly changing climate. Here we combined an Earth system model, climate model projections assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a population dynamics model to estimate a 7% per decade decline in the Costa Rica nesting population over the twentyfirst century. Whereas changes in ocean conditions had a small effect on the population, the 2.5 C warming of the nesting beach was the primary driver of the decline through reduced hatching success and hatchling emergence rate. Hatchling sex ratio did not substantially change. Adjusting nesting phenology or changing nesting sites may not entirely prevent the decline, but could offset the decline rate. However, if future observations show a long-term decline in hatching success and emergence rate, anthropogenic climate mitigation of nests (for example, shading, irrigation) may be able to preserve the nesting population.

Keywords

Biodiversity and ecosystems, Biological sciences, Biology, Conservation, Ecology, Modelling and statistics

Disciplines

Biodiversity | Biology

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Link to Original Published Item

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1582