The impacts of extreme high tide events on sea turtle nesting along the Georgia barrier islands
Wilson, Alicia Marie
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Threats to highly productive coastal areas used by nesting sea turtles are increasing as global warming escalates their vulnerability to storm surges, sea level rise and flooding. Understanding the factors that affect the selection of nesting sites is a critical need for sea turtle management as the status of nesting habitats becomes more uncertain. The objectives for this study were to understand tidal trends and identify the effects of extreme high tide events on loggerhead sea turtle nest success in Georgia. This was done by developing, in a Bayesian framework, a hierarchical model of hatch success built from observations of nests. Results suggest females are emerging on nights with higher high tides which elevates their nest placement and increases their nest success probability. By recognizing the accelerating yearly tidal trends and understanding the processes that drive nest site placement, we can better inform decision making for conservation measures.