Spatial distribution of loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) emergences along a highly dynamic beach in the northern Gulf of Mexico

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Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology



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Armoring, Crawl, Erosion, Gulf of Mexico, Marine turtle, Site fidelity


As coastlines change due to sea level rise and an increasing human presence, understanding how species, such as marine turtles, respond to alterations in habitat is necessary for proper management and conservation. Survey data from a major nesting beach in the northern Gulf of Mexico, where a revetment was installed, was used to assess spatial distribution of loggerhead emergences. Through use of Quadrat analysis and piecewise linear regression with breakpoint, we present evidence to suggest that nest site selection in loggerheads is determined in the nearshore environment, and by characteristics such as wave height, alongshore currents, depth and patterns of erosion and accretion. Areas of relatively dense nesting were found in areas with relatively strong alongshore currents, relatively small waves, a steep offshore slope and the largest historical rates of erosion. Areas of relatively dense nesting also corresponded to areas of low nesting success. Both nesting and non-nesting emergences were clustered immediately adjacent to the revetment and at other eroding sites along the beach. These results suggest that alterations to the nearshore environment from activities such as construction of a jetty, dredging or installation of pilings, may impact sea turtle nest distribution alongshore. We also show that piecewise linear regression with breakpoint is a technique that can be used with geomorphological and oceanographic data to predict locations of nest clumping and may be useful for managers at other nesting beaches. © 2013.