Extreme rainfall events and cooling of sea turtle clutches: Implications in the face of climate warming

Jacques Olivier Laloë, Jamie N. Tedeschi, David T. Booth, Ian Bell, Andy Dunstan, Richard D. Reina, Graeme C. Hays

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Understanding how climate change impacts species and ecosystems is integral to conservation. When studying impacts of climate change, warming temperatures are a research focus, with much less attention given to extreme weather events and their impacts. Here, we show how localized, extreme rainfall events can have a major impact on a species that is endangered in many parts of its range. We report incubation temperatures from the world's largest green sea turtle rookery, during a breeding season when two extreme rainfall events occurred. Rainfall caused nest temperatures to drop suddenly and the maximum drop in temperature for each rain-induced cooling averaged 3.6°C (n = 79 nests, min = 1.0°C, max = 7.4°C). Since green sea turtles have temperature-dependent sex determination, with low incubation temperatures producing males, such major rainfall events may have a masculinization effect on primary sex ratios. Therefore, in some cases, extreme rainfall events may provide a “get-out-of-jail-free card” to avoid complete feminization of turtle populations as climate warming continues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-565
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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