#4 Sea Turtles and the Great Barrier Sea Wall

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” – Native American Proverb 

Climate change is a true phenomenon that is posing a threat to global ecosystems and populations. Climate change is a topic that is especially important to me as I have seen the effects of this issue during my time volunteering with a local Delray Beach conservation group, Sea Turtle Adventures. As a volunteer, I spent much of my time learning about the different species of turtles.

I learned how to differentiate between species based on the shapes of their tracks. I also learned how to spot a “false crawl,” which occurs when a sea turtle goes to lay her eggs but instead returns to the ocean without laying her eggs. False crawls can be affected by many different factors including the presence of seawalls.

Sea turtles find the southeastern United States especially attractive for laying eggs. According to a study, 90% of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) nest on Florida beaches. However, about 25% of beaches along Florida’s east coast are protected by some sort of seawall or bulkhead.

Although seawalls are designed to protect the land from the dangers of storm surges and strong waves, they also have negative effects on wildlife. Seawalls increase the intensity of longshore currents which in turn increases beach erosion. Seawalls also increase the slope of the shore which can cause problems for sea turtles and their hatchlings.

Sea turtles are affected greatly by these massive protective structures. Suitable nesting sites may be made inaccessible, sea turtles may abandon their nesting attempt, the mortality of clutches (groups of eggs) may increase, and nesting habitat may be lost due to long-term beach erosion (Schroeder and Mosier 1998).

A group of researchers published a study in the “Journal of Coastal Research” on the effects of seawalls on nesting attempts made by loggerhead sea turtles. The researchers found that seawalls reduced nesting success and increased the likelihood of nests being washed away during storm events (Rizkalla and Savage 2011).

The reliance on seawalls will continue to intensify as the sea level continues to rise due to global warming and climate change. As a result of the increasing temperature, severe storms are also predicted to worsen which will decrease the hatching rate of sea turtles.

More research is needed on the impact of seawalls, as the study I referenced is now seven years old.

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Thank you for reading! As a Jupiter native, this issue is near and dear to my heart. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. Also, if you want to be updated when I post something new, type your email into the subscribe section

With love,

Darby


Resources:

Rizkalla CE, Savage A. 2011. Impact of seawalls on loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting and hatching success. Journal of Coastal Research. 27(1):166-173.