Environmental conditions of marine turtle nesting and incubating habitats with and without coastal defense and restoring actions

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Yenisei Malanco-García , Nancy Pérez-Morga , Pilar Angélica Gómez-Ruíz, Jesús J. Guerra-Santos, Mariana M.P.B. Fuentes , Vicente Guzmán-Hernández , Eduardo Cuevas

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Sandy coasts are extremely vulnerable to changes in climate impacting endangered species such as marine turtles, that rely on them for part of their life cycle, and alterations to their habitats may modify their reproductive success. In response to coastline changes, hard structures have been installed in a process known as ‘coastal hardening’, with the aim of protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems. Unfortunately, they may alter essential ecological cycles and habitat condition for endangered species. Studying the landscape’s physical and biological features of where endangered species occur, including zones where beach restoration took place, contributes with information of reference about variables that define threshold conditions for turtles’ habitats. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of hard structures (tetrapods and groynes) installed for coastal protection and restoration on nesting habitats for marine turtles in southeastern Mexico. We evaluated differences between beaches with and without restoring actions, in terms of beach morphology, granulometry, vegetation structure and sand temperature. Beaches with hard structures had significantly different habitat conditions. Segments restored using groynes showed similar habitat conditions to those on natural beach reference, while another with tetrapods was more like a degraded beach reference. Nevertheless, marine turtle nesting activity responded more to their historical distribution and philopatry, provoking the occupancy of potential suboptimal habitats for their reproductive success. We contributed with quantitative values for a set of physical and ecological habitat conditions for marine turtle nesting beaches, that are reference for future actions to protect and restore coastal ecosystems.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program