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November 7, 2018

Warmer and wetter conditions will reduce offspring production of hawksbill turtles in Brazil under climate change

Publisher: PLOS ONE

Authors: Alexsandro S. Santos, Armando J. B. Santos, Maria A. G. dei Marcovaldi, Milagros Lopez&ndash, Mendilaharsu, Natalie Montero

Language: English

Climate change is expected to impact animals that are heavily reliant on environmental factors, such as sea turtles, since the incubation of their eggs, hatching success and sex ratio are influenced by the environment in which eggs incubate. As climate change progresses it is therefore important to understand how climatic conditions influence their reproductive output and the ramifications to population stability. Here, we examined the influences of five climatic variables (air temperature, accumulated and average precipitation, humidity, solar radiation, and wind speed) at different temporal scales on hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) hatchling production at ten nesting beaches within two regions of Brazil (five nesting beaches in Rio Grande do Norte and five in Bahia). Air temperature and accumulated precipitation were the main climatic drivers of hawksbill hatching success (number of eggs hatched within a nest) across Brazil and in Rio Grande do Norte, while air temperature and average precipitation were the main climatic drivers of hatching success at Bahia. Solar radiation was the main climatic driver of emergence success (number of hatchlings that emerged from total hatched eggs within a nest) at both regions. Warmer temperatures and higher solar radiation had negative effects on hatchling production, while wetter conditions had a positive effect. Conservative and extreme climate scenarios show air temperatures are projected to increase at this site, while precipitation projections vary between scenarios and regions throughout the 21st century. We predicted hatching success of undisturbed nests (no recorded depredation or storm-related impacts) will decrease in Brazil by 2100 as a result of how this population is influenced by local climate. This study shows the determining effects of different climate variables and their combinations on an important and critically endangered marine species.