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Climate change and marine turtles: recent advances and future directions

Ana R. PatrĂ­cio, Lucy A. Hawkes, Jonathan R. Monsinjon, Brendan J. Godley, Mariana M. P. B. Fuentes*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Climate change is a threat to marine turtles that is expected to affect all their life stages. To guide future research, we conducted a review of the most recent literature on this topic, highlighting knowledge gains and research gaps since a similar previous review in 2009. Most research has been focused on the terrestrial life history phase, where expected impacts will range from habitat loss and decreased reproductive success to feminization of populations, but changes in reproductive periodicity, shifts in latitudinal ranges, and changes in foraging success are all expected in the marine life history phase. Models have been proposed to improve estimates of primary sex ratios, while technological advances promise a better understanding of how climate can influence different life stages and habitats. We suggest a number of research priorities for an improved understanding of how climate change may impact marine turtles, including: improved estimates of primary sex ratios, assessments of the implications of female-biased sex ratios and reduced male production, assessments on the variability in upper thermal limits of clutches, models of beach sediment movement under sea level rise, and assessments of impacts on foraging grounds. Lastly, we suggest that it is not yet possible to recommend manipulating aspects of turtle nesting ecology as the evidence-base with which to understand the results of such interventions is not robust enough, but that strategies for mitigation of stressors should be helpful, providing they consider the synergistic effects of climate change and other anthropogenic-induced threats to marine turtles, and focus on increasing resilience.