02 Jul 2012:
Leatherback Turtle Declines
Will Escalate As Climate Warms, Study Finds
A warming climate could exacerbate threats facing leatherback turtle populations in the eastern Pacific Ocean, creating conditions that could trigger a 75 percent reduction in turtle numbers by the end of the century
, a new study says. Even under existing conditions, turtle births ebb and flow each
year, researchers say, with eggs and hatchlings more likely to survive in cooler, rainier seasons, and a greater number of male hatchlings occurring in predominantly female leatherback populations in these conditions. After modeling these population dynamics in light of projected changes in temperature and precipitation in the turtles’ critical nesting areas, particularly the beaches of Costa Rica, researchers from Drexel and Princeton universities projected an increase in egg and hatchling mortality. According to their findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, leatherback populations — which are already vulnerable because of egg poaching and threats posed by fishing operations — could decline 7 percent per decade through 2100. A key in preserving leatherback populations in the future will be manipulating beach conditions to encourage as many good hatchlings as possible, the researchers say.