JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With sea turtle nesting season underway, chances are you know to keep an eye out for marked-off nests while you’re walking on the beach.
But did you know that the temperature of the sand influences the sex of baby turtles?
That’s because sea turtles are just one of the reptile species whose sex determination depends on the temperature. And with warming temperatures, eggs that hatch are more and more likely to be females.
This is just one consequence of climate change. Warming air temperatures continue to have an impact on sea turtles’ gender. And over the past 50 years, Jacksonville has warmed on average 1.1 degrees.
When the sand is warm, more females are produced. On the other hand, when it’s cold, more males are produced.
Research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests that warming trends due to climate change might cause a higher ratio of female sea turtles down the road.
Thirty years from now, the warming trend could prove beneficial for the sea turtle population as more female turtles will give birth. But 100 years ahead, the population could become lopsided.
Researchers are exploring different ways to help the population, such as installing shady canopies on the beach, replanting vegetation along beach edges or relocating eggs to cooler locations.
In 2018, the World Wildlife Adaption Innovation Fund launched a project in Colombia to investigate ways to control the sand temperature of sea turtle nests. That project is ongoing.
These efforts are being undertaken in hopes that the sea turtle population can continue growing without endangering their species in the long run.