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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 19:85-98 (2012)  -  DOI:

Coastal light pollution and marine turtles: assessing the magnitude of the problem

Ruth L. Kamrowski1,*, Col Limpus2, James Moloney1, Mark Hamann1

1School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, PO Box 2454, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia

ABSTRACT: Globally significant numbers of marine turtles nest on Australian beaches; however, the human population of Australia is also heavily concentrated around coastal areas. Coastal development brings with it increases in artificial light. Since turtles are vulnerable to disorientation from artificial light adjacent to nesting areas, the mitigation of disruption caused by light pollution has become an important component of marine turtle conservation strategies in Australia. However, marine turtles are faced with a multitude of anthropogenic threats and managers need to prioritise impacts to ensure limited conservation resources can result in adequate protection of turtles. Knowledge of the extent to which nesting areas may be vulnerable to light pollution is essential to guide management strategies. We use geographical information system analysis to over-lay turtle nesting data onto night-time lights data produced by the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, to assess the proportion of marine turtles in Australia potentially at risk from light pollution. We also identify the Australian nesting sites which may face the greatest threat from artificial light. Our assessment indicates that the majority of nesting turtles appear to be at low risk, but population management units in Western Australia and Queensland are vulnerable to light pollution. The risk to turtles from light generated by industrial developments appears significantly higher than at any other location. Consequently, managers of turtle management units in regions of proposed or on-going industrial development should anticipate potentially disrupted turtle behaviour due to light pollution. Our methodology will be useful to managers of turtles elsewhere.

KEY WORDS: Artificial light · Orientation · Coastal development · GIS analysis · Vulnerability assessment

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Cite this article as: Kamrowski RL, Limpus C, Moloney J, Hamann M (2012) Coastal light pollution and marine turtles: assessing the magnitude of the problem. Endang Species Res 19:85-98.

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