Nest selection is widely regarded as a key process determining the fitness of individuals and viability of animal populations. For marine turtles that nest on beaches, this is particularly pivotal as the nesting environment can significantly control reproductive success.The aim of this study was to identify the environmental attributes of beaches (i.e., morphology, vegetation, urbanisation) that may be associated with successful oviposition in green and loggerhead turtle nests.
We quantified the proximity of turtle nests (and surrounding beach locations) to urban areas, measured their exposure to artificial light, and used ultra-high resolution (cm-scale) digital surface models derived from Structure-from-Motion (SfM) algorithms, to characterise geomorphic and vegetation features of beaches on the Sunshine Coast, eastern Australia.
At small spatial scales (i.e., <100 m), we found no evidence that turtles selected nest sites based on a particular suite of environmental attributes (i.e., the attributes of nest sites were not consistently different from those of surrounding beach locations). Nest sites were, however, typically characterised by occurring close to vegetation, on parts of the shore where the beach- and dune-face was concave and not highly rugged, and in areas with moderate exposure to artificial light.
This study used a novel empirical approach to identify the attributes of turtle nest sites from a broader âenvelopeâ of environmental nest traits, and is the first step towards optimizing conservation actions to mitigate, at the local scale, present and emerging human impacts on turtle nesting beaches.